Christian woman with schizophrenia to stand trial for blasphemy in Indonesia

Published 22 October 2019  |  
Reuters
Students read the Koran in a mosque in Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia, which is the world's most populous Muslim-majority country.

A Christian woman in Indonesia is to stand trial for blasphemy after bringing a dog into a mosque.

Suzethe Margaret, 52, has been charged under the country's blasphemy laws despite having schizophrenia, Benar News reports.

She wore sandals and took her dog into the Al Munawaroh Mosque in Bogor, south of Jakarta, in June. Dogs are not permitted inside mosques because the animal is considered ritually impure in Islam.

In video footage that went viral, Margaret could be seen arguing with mosque caretakers and was heard saying that she was a Christian and wanted to know about her ex-husband marrying another woman at the mosque later in the day.

Her family told Benar News that she suffered from mental illness, which police reportedly confirmed after taking the woman to a hospital in Jakarta for psychiatric evaluation.

She faces five years in prison.

Indonesia Researcher for Human Rights Watch, Andreas Harsono, said, "[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, International Christian Concern'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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