An Indonesian woman who caused a huge controversy by bringing a dog into a mosque last year was found guilty of blasphemy in court today, though she has been acquitted due to her mental illness.
At the Cibinong District Court in Bogor, West Java, the defendant, a 52-year-old woman identified by her initials SM, was found guilty of committing blasphemy under Article 156a of the Criminal Code, which is punishable by up to five years in prison.
However, the judges ruled that SM, who reportedly suffers from schizophrenia, is not liable for her actions.
“The defendant suffers from a severe mental illness so she cannot be punished, therefore we acquit her of all punishments,” presiding judge Indra Meinantha Vidi said while reading out SM’s verdict at her sentencing hearing today, as quoted by Okezone.
Some people who attended the hearing shouted their displeasure at the judges’ verdict.
“If I see her on the street I will scream that she’s crazy,” one person was heard saying in court.
In July 2019, SM, a Catholic, was 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. She also told the police that she didn’t know that dogs, which are considered impure in Islam, were not allowed in mosques.
Rights activists decried her blasphemy charge and the case being brought to court despite her condition, though some conservative Muslim groups called for her prosecution.
Blasphemy is a serious crime in Indonesia, but vague wordings in its legislation has made it prone to be used as a political tool and to persecute religious minorities. Arguably the most infamous blasphemy conviction was given to former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian of Chinese descent, who was sentenced to two years in prison in 2017 simply for warning the public not to trust officials who quote the Quran to convince them not to vote for non-Muslim politicians.
Since Ahok’s case, application of the blasphemy law spiked dramatically in Indonesia, but the vast majority of charges and convictions under the law were used against members of minority religious faiths who allegedly blasphemed Islam, and rarely the other way around.
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