Indonesian woman is jailed for 18 months for complaining about the local mosque

Published on 3rd December 2019 by BrickTop

Filed under News

Last modified 19th October 2020

Print this page

rate 1 star rate 2 star rate 3 star rate 4 star rate 5 star
Your rating: none, Average: 0 (0 votes)

This article have been viewed 98 times

A woman in Muslim-majority Indonesia was sentenced to 18 months in jail for complaining about the volume of a mosque’s call to prayer – the latest conviction under a controversial blasphemy law.

Meiliana, 44, an ethnic Chinese Buddhist, was found guilty of insulting Islam on Tuesday for asking her neighbourhood mosque to lower its sound system because it was too loud. Prosecutors allege she committed blasphemy against Islam by complaining and she was sentenced to 18 months in prison. She burst into tears as the presiding judge, Wahyu Prasetyo Wibowo announced her sentence on Tuesday and she was taken from the court in handcuffs.

“She had said something that insulted religion, in this case Islam,” said Jamaluddin, a spokesman of the Medan district court, adding the defendant had “showed remorse and apologised”. Political activists have warned the country’s stringent blasphemy laws are being used to bully minorities and violate religious freedoms. In July 2016, mobs burned and ransacked at least 14 Buddhist temples throughout Tanjung Balai, a port town on Sumatra, following reports of Meiliana’s complaint about a mosque’s noisy loudspeakers.

Her lawyer, Ranto Sibarani, said they would appeal the verdict. “We will appeal the verdict because the judges could not prove that our client has committed blasphemy,” he said. Responding to the sentencing, Usman Hamid, Amnesty International Indonesia’s executive director, said: “Making a complaint about noise is not a criminal offence. This ludicrous decision is a flagrant violation of freedom of expression. “Sentencing someone to 18 months in prison for something so trivial is a stark illustration of the increasingly arbitrary and repressive application of the blasphemy law in the country. “The higher court in North Sumatra must reverse this injustice by quashing Meiliana’s sentence and ensuring her immediate and unconditional release.”

Since 2004, 147 people have been imprisoned under blasphemy or related laws, according to monitoring by Human Rights Watch. The number of cases has slowed since 2014 under the administration of the current president, Joko “Jokowi” Widodo. Last year, the former ethnic Chinese governor of Jakarta was tried and jailed for blasphemy after several Muslim groups accused him of insulting Islam when he said his political rivals were using the Quran to deceive voters.

The ruling was widely condemned and believed to be politically motivated. Basuki Tjahaja Purnama also lost his re-election bid because of the accusations. There are hundreds of thousands of mosques across the vast archipelago and most use loudspeakers to play the “azan” or call to prayer, which lasts a few minutes. But many also play lengthy versions of prayers or sermons lasting over 30 minutes, which has been deemed unnecessary by the Indonesian Mosque Council.

Indonesia’s vice president Jusuf Kalla, who is also a member of the Council, formed a team in 2015 to review mosques’ use of loudspeakers and regulate their use and volume. He has previously called on mosques to use their public address systems “wisely”.