Ratna Sarumpaet, a former senior campaigner for defeated presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto, was sentenced to two years in prison by the South Jakarta District Court yesterday after being found guilty of spreading a hoax during the presidential campaign.
The judges ruled that Ratna created a public disturbance by spreading a fake story about being assaulted by a group of unidentified men when, in fact, the bruising seen in a viral photo of her face she shared as proof of the attack had actually been the result of a plastic surgery procedure she had just undergone.
It was argued during her trial that her hoax threatened to sow chaos between the supporters of Prabowo and his election rival, President Joko Widodo.
Ratna’s sentence is less than the six years demanded by public prosecutors in court. The court said her sentence will be reduced by the amount of time she has already spent in police detention.
Ratna’s attorney, Insank Nasruddin, criticized the prosecutors’ six-year sentence demand, arguing that it would’ve been more severe than the sentences given to many corruption convicts, especially considering that his client will turn 70 this year.
Before the trial, Ratna said she hoped she could be freed, claiming there was no evidence that the lies she perpetrated had caused a public disturbance.
In October of last year, the veteran human rights activist and actress told presidential candidate Prabowo — for whom Ratna was campaigning for in this year’s election — and her fellow campaigners that she had recently been assaulted by a group of unidentified men in Bandung, where she was attending an international conference (which didn’t exist). A photo of what was supposedly her battered face went viral online and Prabowo and others in his coalition called upon the police to bring her attackers to justice.
But a police investigation into her claim quickly concluded that the bruises in her photo were the side effects of a recent facial liposuction procedure and that her entire story had huge holes in it, indicating the whole thing had been falsified.
Ratna eventually fessed up to her lie, claiming she fabricated the assault story so that her children wouldn’t be concerned about her swollen up face (because that totally makes sense, apparently). Soon after, Prabowo dropped her from his campaign team and numerous police complaints against her from various civil groups were filed.
Ratna was arrested at the Soekarno-Hatta Airport just as she was about to leave for a playwrights conference in Chile. Since then, prosecutors have indicted her with spreading misinformation and causing public disorder under Article 14 (1) of the Criminal Code, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, as well as hate speech under Article 45A (2) of the Information and Electronic Transactions Act (UU ITE), which is punishable by up to six years in prison.