Woman jailed for complaining about mosque’s loudspeaker submits appeal to Supreme Court

Meliana during her blasphemy trial. Photo: Change.org

While the story of Baiq Nuril, the teacher who was controversially sentenced to six months in prison by the Supreme Court for recording her principal sexually harassing her, remains much in the news in Indonesia, another woman widely considered to have suffered a grave injustice by the courts — Meliana, the woman found guilty of blasphemy for complaining about the volume of her neighborhood’s mosque loudspeaker — just filed her appeal to the country’s highest court.

Yesterday, Meliana’s lawyer, Ranto Sibarani SH, submitted the appeal to the Supreme Court to overturn the decision by Medan’s District Court to sentence the 44-year-old Chinese-Indonesian woman to 18 months in prison for allegedly committing blasphemy against Islam.  

It’s Meliana’s last chance for appeal after the Medan High Court upheld the lower court’s sentence on October 25.

Ranto said Meliana’s family think she has a good chance of getting justice at the Supreme Court.

“The family has been very strong and very optimistic about the appeal legal efforts,” Ranto said as quoted by VOA Indonesia, adding that they were confident the Supreme Court would not be influenced by protesters and pressure from hardline organizations as had happened in North Sumatra’s courts.

If Meliana were to lose her Supreme Court appeal, her hope of having her sentence overturned would be limited but not lost. The recent outcry over Baiq Nuril’s verdict from the Supreme Court, as well as a statement of support from President Joko Widodo himself have led to the start of her sentence being delayed while her lawyers attempt to file a judicial review and Jokowi even suggested he’d consider giving her a presidential pardon should the judicial review fail (though we doubt he’d offer that in Meliana’s case, it being far more controversial due to its association with blasphemy against Islam).

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. Even religious officials and politicians have joined the chorus of criticisms against this particular application of the blasphemy law.

The Medan District Court sentenced Meliana to 18 months in prison in August of this year. 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.

Last month, 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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