It has been close to two weeks since a woman, identified by police by her initials SM, was arrested on charges of blasphemy for bringing her dog into and causing a scene at a mosque in Bogor, despite her long history of mental illness. SM is reportedly still in police custody at a mental hospital, and one group of legal activists are urging the police to drop all charges against her.
The Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta) today issued a statement calling for the police to release SM on the grounds that she suffers from schizophrenia (by the police’s own account), which should exempt her from prosecution by the law.
“Her detention could potentially create violations to SM’s rights and guarantee to mental health care as a sufferer of schizophrenia. SM needs special attention and a chance to independently and accountably determine the health care [provider] she needs,” LBH Jakarta Director Arif Maulana wrote in the statement, as picked up by Detik.
Arif added that the police must drop charges against SM because her mental state meant she had no rational capacity to commit blasphemy.
Previously, police justified keeping SM in custody and pressing charges against her because they said the court is responsible for determining whether she can use mental illness as a legal defense.
Article 44 of the KUHP (Criminal Code), which states that mentally challenged individuals are not liable for the crimes they commit, can theoretically be used by SM in the event that she pleads not guilty by reason of mental illness. The case might not even go to trial if further mental health assessments show that SM was unable to think or behave rationally at the time of the incident.
SM’s family members may also be criminally liable if authorities evoke Article 491 of the KUHP, which states that the guardians of the mentally challenged who neglect to keep an eye on their subjects, endangering themselves or others, may be fined up to IDR750 (US$0.05) — an amount that was substantial back in the Dutch colonial era when the KUHP was drawn up.
Though the nature of the incident is different, the case bears certain similarities to another from 2017 in which police arrested a woman for shopping at a pharmacy almost naked but later dropped the case against her as she was ruled to have mental health issues. While such an eventuality is possible for SM, it’s an outcome that might anger some conservative Muslims in Indonesia, some of whom have called for her prosecution.