Islamic officials unexpectedly release woman held for caning in Malaysia

Islamic officials Monday abruptly released a Muslim model scheduled to be caned this week for drinking beer after briefly detaining her, in an unexpected twist for Malaysia's first woman to face the corporal punishment. Two female and one male officials came to the house of Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno in northern Malaysia on Monday and took her away in a van on what was supposed to be a four-hour road journey to a prison near Kuala Lumpur, the country's main city. But they returned after about 30 minutes and said they had received "instructions from the higher powers" to release her, said Kartika's father, Shukarno Abdul Muttalib. The officials said that "for now, the sentence cannot be carried out," Shukarno said. Officials had said earlier that Kartika, a 32-year-old mother of two, would be caned sometime during the week but no specific date was set. Amnesty International had condemned the decision, and many critics had said the caning would harm Malaysia's reputation as a moderate Muslim country.