Home News No jail for mentally-ill woman found guilty of blasphemy in Indonesia

No jail for mentally-ill woman found guilty of blasphemy in Indonesia

A Catholic woman, who took a dog into a mosque in Indonesia, has been found guilty of blasphemy, but she will not be held accountable because she suffers from a mental illness.

Suzethe Margareth, 52, was found guilty of blasphemy on Feb. 5 over an incident that occurred in a mosque in the West Java district of Bogor near Jakarta in July last year.

Due to her history of paranoid schizophrenia the three judges said she could not be held responsible for her actions.

A video of the incident showed Margareth, in a state of clear agitation, entering the mosque and claiming that her husband was getting married there that day. She accused the mosque of converting him to Islam as her dog ran around the building.

People denied that any such wedding was taking place. Margareth never took off her shoes — offending many of those in attendance. Margareth and an identified man, who insisted she leave, also got into a physical altercation.

The video angered many conservative Islamic elements in the country.

Indonesia’s Vice President Jusuf Kalla, who is also the chairman of the Indonesian Mosque Council, said “bringing a dog into a mosque was obviously blasphemous.”

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After charging Margareth with blasphemy, prosecutors were seeking an eight-month prison sentence. 

Margareth’s lawyer Alfonsus Atu Kota was grateful for the trial’s outcome.

“Thank you to everyone, [to] journalists, NGOs and the panel of the judges that made a just decision because the fact is that [Margareth] is ill,” Kota said reported the Jakarta Post

Kota said from the onset it was clear to prosecutors and investigators that his client, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2013, was struggling with mental health issues. 

“From her gestures, the way she speaks, we all can see that she is suffering,” he said. “But the case was pursued because there was pressure from certain groups of people.”

Rights groups have long called for abolishment of the blasphemy law, which is used to persecute Christians and other religious minorities, the Associated Press reports

Amnesty International called the case “unfortunate and absurd”, while Human Rights Watch (HRW) said it showed “how Indonesia’s blasphemy law is easily abused.”

“The government should revoke the law instead of expanding it and drop the cases against those charged,” Andreas Harsono, HRW’s Indonesia researcher, said. 

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