An ethnic Chinese woman known as Meiliana has been sentenced in Indonesia to 18 months in prison following a complaint she made back in 2016 that a neighbourhood mosque was making too much noise.
According to this report, her complaint was interpreted by a court as being an insult to Islam.
Prosecutors said the 44-year-old defendant violated the criminal code by committing blasphemy.
Meiliana complained to a member of the public that the volume was too loud near her house in North Sumatra in 2016.
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.
Jamaluddin, a spokesman for the Medan district court, is quoted as saying:
She said something that insulted religion – in this case Islam.
He added that the defendant had also showed remorse and apologised.
Following media reports of Meiliana’s comments, mobs burned and ransacked at least fourteen Buddhist temples throughout the port town Medan in 2016.
Political activists have warned that the country’s stringent blasphemy laws have been used to bully minorities and violate religious freedoms.
Bonar Tigor Naipospos, deputy chair of SETARA Institute, an Indonesian-based democracy organisation, said in the case of Meiliana she had been used as a scapegoat because of political pressure.
What Meiliana did could not be categorised as blasphemy
He also said the Indonesian government needed to revise the laws, or there would be similar cases in the future.
Meiliana’s lawyer, Ranto Sibarani, said her sentence would be appealed.
The maximum sentence for blasphemy is five years.
In this report, 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
But a conservative group, Islamic Community Forum, said Meilana’s sentence was too light.
Yesterday we reported on a “Jihadi” parade by kindergarten in Indonesia.