KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 15, 2009 (AFP) - A Malaysian Islamic court has sentenced an Indonesian man to be caned and jailed for drinking alcohol, weeks after triggering a furore by ordering a woman to be caned for the same offence.
The Sharia High Court in central Pahang state on Monday sentenced odd-job worker Nazarudin Kamaruddin to six strokes of the cane and one year's imprisonment, a court official confirmed.
"The sentence meted out to him is not meant as punishment but to serve as a lesson," judge Abdul Rahman Yunus said according to the New Straits Times, adding that Nazarudin had dishonoured the holy month of Ramadan.
Malaysia, a multicultural country with large Chinese and Indian communities, has a dual-track legal system and sharia courts can try Muslim Malays - who make up 60 percent of the population - for religious and moral offences.
In some parts of the country it is a punishable offence for Malays to drink alcohol. They can be fined, caned, or jailed for up to three years but prosecutions have until now been extremely rare.
The case of Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, a part-time model who in July was sentenced by the Pahang court to six strokes of the cane for drinking beer, was sharply criticised by human rights groups.
As international headlines mounted, jeopardising Malaysia's reputation as a moderate nation, the government last month announced her sentence would be reviewed, saying it was "too harsh".
Nazarudin, a 46-year-old permanent resident of Malaysia, said he had bought a bottle of "samsu", a cheap local liquor, to share with friends at a restaurant when religious authorities swooped in a raid.
"I've been in this country for so many years and have been very careful not to get onto the wrong side of the law," he told the paper.