Indonesian Christian Woman with Schizophrenia Tried for Blasphemy Law

Woman with Shoes on Brought Dog into Mosque

10/16/2019 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that a Christian woman in Indonesia’s Bogor will be tried for blasphemy law, despite having a serious mental illness. She can face up to five years in prison for an altercation at a mosque that took place last June.

In late June, Suzethe Margaret, 52, wore sandals and brought her dog into the Al Munawaroh Mosque, an act deemed offensive to Muslims because dogs are considered ritually impure. In the video that went viral online documenting the event, she was seen arguing with mosque caretakers. She can be heard saying that she is Christian and demanding to know about her ex-husband who was going to marry another woman in the mosque later that day.

According to Benar News, her family said she suffered from mental illness, a condition confirmed by police following a psychiatric examination at a hospital in Jakarta. The woman’s medical record showed that she suffered from schizophrenia and underwent psychiatric treatment in 2013 but did not complete her therapy, Bogor police spokeswoman Ita Puspita Lena said.

Despite proofs to show her mental condition, she was arrested in June and faced trial last week, which was closed to the public due to her psychosocial disability. If convicted, her charge with committing blasphemy against Islam can put her behind bars for up to five years, endangering her wellbeing.

Indonesia Researcher Andreas Harsono from the Human Rights Watch commented, “[This case] shows 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.”

Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager for Southeast Asia, said, “Although I can understand why the Indonesian Muslims were deeply upset by Suzethe’s behavior, we should not forget that she suffers from mental illness and should not be held to the same standard as an ordinary citizen. Her case also further proves that blasphemy law in Indonesia has been applied to oppress the minorities in the country, whether they are Christians, Buddhists, or mentally disabled. Even if rights groups’ previous attempts to revoke the law have failed, the government needs to ensure the rights of religious minorities out of respect for human rights.”

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