Published on: Tuesday, February 04, 2014
All the bravado was history.
Restaurant manager Riduan Masmud looked crestfallen when he learnt that he would have to serve 12 years in prison and endure two strokes of the cane for raping a 13-year-old schoolgirl who he subsequently married.
Gone was the air of defiance he had struck throughout his trial - in its place was a man who publicly displayed a loss of composure when Sessions Court Judge Ummu Kalthom Abdul Samad meted out the punishment for his crime, Monday.
But the 41-year-old managed to obtain a stay, pending an appeal against his conviction and sentence to the High Court, which means he will remain free for now.
His sentencing before a packed courtroom brought to an end a much-publicised case, which had struck a chord especially among rights groups and women's organisations who were upset that Riduan had taken the victim as his second wife.
Riduan was on Jan 24 found guilty of raping the girl inside a car parked by the side of the road towards the Kionsom Waterfall in Inanam between 9am and 10am on Feb 18, 2013.
He was found guilty of the offence under Section 376(1) of the Penal Code, which carries a jail term of up to 20 years and whipping.
Ummu held in her judgement that the court could not hand him a lenient sentence as it would send the wrong message that he could simply rape an underage girl and then marry her.
Outside the court, Riduan's daughter and first wife rushed to him, giving him bear hugs as tears flowed.
Riduan, who looked stressed, shouted Allah Hu Akbar (Allah is Great) while he embraced them.
He was then handcuffed and led away to the court cell pending the furnishing of the new bail of RM15,000 which was offered by the court for a stay of execution.
Ummu had adjourned sentencing for nearly two hours after hearing submissions from both parties.
She thereafter granted Riduan's application to stay the sentence pending appeal to the High Court and increased the bail amount from RM8,000 to RM15,000 with two local sureties, his first wife being one.
Ummu also ordered Riduan to be placed under police supervision for a year after completing his jail sentence.
Earlier, Riduan who was clad in a grey jacket over a black shirt and wearing long black jeans, was reduced to tears in the accused's dock when his counsel Ram Singh was mitigating for him.
He told the court that he was sick during the previous proceedings and hence could not come to court.
According to Riduan, he had received treatment from a 'bomoh' in his village and that he was warded in hospital on four occasions during his trial.
Ram applied for a lenient sentence, saying that there was no element of force involved and that the victim's parents had consented to Riduan's marriage to their daughter.
"I have filed in the past a representation letter to the Deputy Public Prosecutor's office that Riduan married the victim of rape and the representation was accepted.
"Why this case? To my view, at least such marriage must be taken in a positive manner, Riduan was a responsible person and not to be taken as an admission of rape on his part or the victim's part," he said, adding that long-term imprisonment may not be the best option in this case.
He said the 'trial by media' and comments from the Community Development and Consumer Affairs Minister were enough punishment to Riduan, his wife and children and also the victim.
Ram also told the court that a revision application which he had filed last Wednesday to the High Court for certain orders regarding the case, was rejected through a letter dated on Jan 30 this year.
He added that Riduan, who has four children with his first wife, was a first offender and had been suspended by his employer since the case started.
However, Deputy Public Prosecutor Raja Zaizul Faridah asked for a deterrent sentence to be imposed on Riduan, submitting that although there was no force used by Riduan against the victim in committing the offence, the victim was only a minor, due to her young age she succumbed to Riduan's demands.
"On the other hand, Riduan who is an adult aged 40, a husband and a father of four children had taken advantage of the immaturity of the victim and as a consequence of the offence committed, Riduan had ruined the victim's life as she was no longer going to school after the incident.
"The court should also take into consideration the traumatic experience not only to the victim but also the victim's friend (one of the prosecution witness) who unfortunately watched what he did to the victim until she opened the car door and ran away," Faridah said.
She further submitted that besides being a signal to would-be rapists a deterrent sentence will also be a signal that a rapist could not use marriage as an 'easy gateway' to escape criminal prosecution in court on the offence committed.
"Lately, there is a tendency that a person who is charged in court with committing rape, will marry the victim and consequently the victim/victim's family will withdraw the police report against the offender as well as the case against the accused in court," she said.
Meanwhile, according to the prosecution, the victim, who was called for her impact statement in camera, did not want to say anything even though the court had asked her thrice.
Counsel Mary Florence Gomez held a watching brief for Voice of the Children Malaysia, Sabah Law Association, Befrienders Kota Kinabalu while counsel Mary Lee for the Sabah Women's Action Resource Group (Sawo), Women's Centre For Change, Penang (WCC Penang), Sisters In Islam, Anne Keyworth of Bukit Harapan.