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Court suspends prison sentence for Jambi rape victim

Jakarta Post - August 2, 2018

Jon Afrizal, Jambi In a rare decision, the Muara Bulian District Court in Jambi has decided to suspend the six-month prison sentence for a 15-year-old girl who was sent to prison for aborting her pregnancy after being raped by her own brother.

Derman Nababan, who heads the district court, said on Thursday that the decision was made on "humanitarian grounds".

The verdict against the teenage rape victim has sparked criticism from human rights activists who believe her trial was flawed, and they have launched a major campaign demanding that the girl be released from prison.

More than 9,000 people have signed a petition demanding her release at change.org. The petition was initiated by the Jambi Women Consortium.

Activists, citing a number of irregularities during the trial, have also reported the judges handling the case to the Judicial Commission for alleged ethics violations. The commission has said it would look into the report.

Among the irregularities is the fact that both the victim and the perpetrator were represented by the same lawyer in two different cases: abortion and sexual assault.

The Jambi High Court said on Wednesday that they had summonsed the judges for questioning. "[We summonsed them] to listen to the explanation," Jambi High Court spokesperson, Hasoloan Sianturi, said on Thursday.

The case came to light in early June when local residents found a dead, 8-month-old male fetus on an oil palm plantation in Pulau village, Muara Tembesi district. Based on the results of the investigation, the police found that the 15-year-old girl was the mother of the deceased baby.

The brother admitted that he had forced his own sister to have sex with him eight times since September last year. He threatened to harm her physically if she refused.

The girl was found guilty of abortion as stipulated under Article 77 of the Child Protection Law, while her brother was found guilty of both abortion and sexual assault as stipulated under Article 81 of the same law.

According to the Health Law, rape victims can legally abort their pregnancy within the first 40 days of conception. However, the victim in this case decided to terminate her pregnancy after she was eight months along.

The girl's lawyer, Damai, who initially accepted the conviction, said he would appeal his client's conviction as the case had triggered global criticism. "We want her to be free," he said.

Save Our Sister Jambi spokesperson Zubaidah said her organization, which has provided counseling for the girl, welcomed the court's decision to suspend her prison sentence, citing the fact that a legal effort had been made to overturn her conviction.

"[The girl] is currently incarcerated at Muara Bulian penitentiary. She is deeply depressed," she said. (ahw)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/02/court-suspends-prison-sentence-for-jambi-rape-victim.html.

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