Baiq Nuril, a teacher from Mataram on the island of Lombok, says she had been verbally sexually harassed with indecent conversation from her school’s principal several times before she decided to record him doing so during a phone conversation back in 2012. When the recording was made public, the principal lost his post. But in retaliation, he filed a criminal report over the recording that Nuril may now have to spend six months in jail just for making it.
Although Nuril was found not guilty at the district court level in July, prosecutors appealed directly to the Supreme Court, which overturned the lower court verdict and sentenced the teacher to six months in jail as well as a fine of IDR500 million (US$33,500).
So how exactly did a victim of sexual harassment end up being sentenced to jail by the country’s highest court for collecting proof of her harasser’s crime? What crime did she supposedly commit?
Those of you who know anything about the Indonesian legal system probably already know: Nuril was found guilty of violating Indonesia’s draconian Law on Electronic Information and Transaction (UU ITE), which makes any kind of electronic message that could possibly be considered immoral, insulting or blasphemous by one party a potential crime. It has been criticized innumerable times as a tool to promote censorship, limit free speech and protect those in power by criminalizing those who speak out against them.
“The defendant Baiq Nuril Maknun has been proven legally and convincingly guilty of committing a criminal offense by distributing and or transmitting or making accessible electronic information and / or electronic documents that have contents that violate morality,” read the Supreme Court’s verdict as posted to the Mataram District Court website on Sunday.
Yes, because Nuril made a recording of her principal’s immoral sexual harassment, the Supreme Court decided to find her guilty of violating UU ITE.
Even if you accept UU ITE as it is written, it is difficult to justify the Supreme Court’s decision. That’s the position of Indonesia’s Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR), which has criticized the court’s legal reasoning in the case on a number of points, the clearest being that, in the original trial, Nuril was proven to not have been the person who actually disseminated the recording online. That was done by one of her colleagues (who was not reported to the police and has not been charged with any crimes).
“Baiq Nuril, based on the facts of the trial, never spread the immoral content that caused the violation, it was another party who actually spread the recording of the conversation between [the principal] and Baiq Nuril,” ICJR executive director Anggara said as quoted by Tirto on Sunday.
However, as the Supreme Court’s decisions cannot be appealed, Nuril’s only hope for justice now is to file a judicial review, but those require new evidence to be submitted so it is not yet clear if her lawyers will be able to submit one.
Meanwhile, netizens are making their outrage over the decision known via a Change.org petition demanding that Nuril be set free that has already been signed by over 32,000 people.