Indonesia’s Supreme Court denies appeal from woman jailed for complaining about mosque’s loudspeaker

Meliana during her blasphemy trial. Photo:
Meliana during her blasphemy trial. Photo:

Indonesia’s Supreme Court has officially denied the second appeal by Meliana, the woman who was found guilty of blasphemy for complaining about the volume of her neighborhood’s mosque, meaning the 44-year-old Indonesian woman of Chinese descent will still have to undergo her 18-month prison sentence as there is no higher court to appeal to.

“The appeal has been denied,” the ruling, which was decided on March 27, read on the Supreme Court website, as picked up by Detik today

Meliana, through her attorney, submitted her appeal to the Supreme Court to overturn the decision in November after her appeal to the Medan High Court was denied in October. She was originally sentenced to 18 months in prison by Medan’s District Court in August for allegedly committing blasphemy against Islam.

Soon after, the head judge in her trial was arrested by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) on suspicion of bribery, though those charges were not directly related to Meliana’s case.

The case began back in July 2016, when rioters in the city of Tanjung Balai, North Sumatra, attacked and burned several Buddhist temples. The riot was allegedly triggered by Meliana’s complaints to neighbors about the high volume of the loudspeaker used by the mosque in front of her house.

Her sentence drew outrage from many in Indonesia, especially considering those responsible for the violent riots received far more lenient punishments, ranging from one to two months in prison. Even religious officials and politicians joined the chorus of criticism against this particular application of the blasphemy law.

Human Rights Watch researcher Andreas Harsono wrote about the heartbreaking human costs of Indonesia’s controversial blasphemy law in relation to Meliana and her family, such as the loss of their salted fish shop, having to abandon their home, and Meliana’s son being forced to leave university.

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