A middle aged Indonesian woman, who has been identified by her initials SM, has been charged with blasphemy for bringing her dog into a mosque in Bogor and setting it loose, despite the police’s mental health assessment unearthing her long history of mental illness.
Yesterday evening, a day after the incident, police said that they had found that SM was first diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2013. Since then, she had been treated by several psychiatrists — all of whom corroborated her diagnosis with the police — but they say she only intermittently took her medication and often didn’t show up to therapy.
This morning, the Bogor Police announced that SM has been charged with blasphemy.
“Based on the evidence of five witness testimonies and a video of the incident, matched by the clothes and shoes SM wore when she entered the mosque… SM is now a suspect,” Bogor Police Spokeswoman Ita Puspita Lena wrote in a statement, as picked up by Detik.
SM was charged with violating Article 156A of the Blasphemy Law, which carries a potential penalty of five years in prison, for expressing in public an insult towards a recognized religion in Indonesia.
In their statement, the police said that SM’s legal status may be subject to further mental health assessments but noted that she’s been behaving aggressively when assessed.
Can SM plead insanity?
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 case the event that she pleads not guilty by reason of mental illness. The case might not even go to trial if the further mental health assessments shows that SM was unable to think or behave rationally at the time of the incident.
Alternatively, or additionally, SM’s family members may 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 colonization days 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 already called for her prosecution.