Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lizard king freed from jail

A Malaysian appeal court on Wednesday freed a wildlife trafficker known as the “lizard king” who had been caught trying to smuggle boa constrictors, overturning a lower court’s sentence.

Anson Wong was arrested in August 2010 at Kuala Lumpur airport as he tried to smuggle 95 of the endangered snakes to neighboring Indonesia.

The Malaysian, who is in his 50s, was sentenced to six months in jail later that year. Prosecutors appealed the verdict at the high court, but it extended the sentence to five years.

But Judge Low Hop Bing, sitting at the Court of Appeal in Putrajaya, the administrative capital south of Kuala Lumpur, overturned the sentence on Wednesday and ordered Wong’s immediate release

“The high court did not make any reference that the appellant had pleaded guilty in the lower court,” Low said.

“[It] also erroneously considered irrelevant factors like that the 95 snakes were kept in a small bag and were being tortured,” he added.

Low said the jail term was thus adjusted to 17-and-a-half months, which Wong had already served.