The district attorney in Pematangsiantar, North Sumatra has ceased investigation into four male health workers who had been accused of blasphemy after they allegedly violated Islamic customs by bathing a deceased female COVID-19 patient who is not their mahram (unmarriable kin, usually immediate family members, and the husband).
The charges were dropped after District Attorney Agustinus Wijono ruled this week that there is insufficient evidence to further process the case.
“After I examined whether or not this is fit to be handed over to the District Court, in this regard we found that there was an error from the prosecutor in interpreting elements [of the crime], so elements of the charges have not been fulfilled by the accused,” Agustinus said during a press conference on Wednesday.
The health workers were first charged with “not providing medical service in accordance with standards of the profession and standard operational procedures” under Indonesia’s Medical Practice Law, which is punishable by up to one year in prison. Police then also tacked on a blasphemy charge under the Criminal Code (KUHP), which is punishable by up to five years in prison.
Agustinus said that the “intentional” element for the blasphemy charge cannot be proven in this case. However, the investigation into the four health workers continues with regards to the first charge.
Islam rules that women are not allowed to expose their aurat (Islamic term for parts of the body that should be covered for the sake of modesty) to men who are not their mahram. The same applies to the pre-burial bathing ritual of deceased females, which can only be performed by those who are the deceased’s mahram.
In September 2020, the four health workers, comprising two nurses and two forensics staff who work at a state hospital, bathed the 50-year-old deceased female COVID-19 patient in the absence of her family members and female employees at the time. The deceased’s family then filed a police complaint that led to their criminal charges.