6 Jan 2011

Child 'brides' common in rural Indonesia despite harsh laws, Muslim cleric who 'married' girl faces soft sentence



The Jakarta Globe - Indonesia October 22, 2010

Cleric With Child Bride Should Be Jailed Six Years, Court Told

by Candra Malik


Semarang -- Prosecutors have demanded a court sentence a wealthy Muslim cleric to six years in prison for sexually abusing a 12-year-old girl he took as his unofficial wife.

Widiyanto Pujiono Cahyo, 45, also known as Sheikh Puji, married the girl in August 2008.

He has defended his unofficial second marriage by saying the girl had reached puberty.

Prosecutors also asked the court to fine Pujiono, 45, Rp 60 million ($6,700) or face a further six months in prison.

“We recommend six years in prison for him,” prosecutor Suningsih told the court.

“He has been sexually abusive toward women, especially towards this underage girl. As the owner of a religious school, he does not set a good example.”

Lutfiana became the cleric’s second wife after a wedding ceremony that the cleric said was valid under Islamic law but not civil law.

The marriage sparked a public outcry, with critics accusing the cleric of practicing legalized pedophilia.

Pujiono’s lawyer has said the girl refused to annul the marriage because she loved the cleric.

Indonesian law has harsh penalties for pedophilia, but unregistered and therefore unofficial marriages between older men and underage girls are common in rural areas.

Pujiono, the head of the Miftachul Jannah Islamic boarding school in Central Java, was arrested after a report was filed against him by the Anti-Corruption Civil Society Coalition (Kompak).

He claimed in his defense that he had his wife’s approval for the marriage.

Seto Mulyadi, chairman of the Indonesian Child Protection Commission, said he regretted prosecutors had not sought a longer sentence.

“Both articles of the law he is charged under would warrant a 15-year jail term,” he told the Jakarta Globe.

“If prosecutors have demanded less than half of this, how can this be considered to offer any deterrent effect? Instead, it sets a bad precedent.”

He said prosecutors should demand that Pujiono return the girl to her rightful guardians — her parents.

“Based on our discussions with the Indonesian Ulema Council, we do not recommend a divorce,” Seto said.

“We ask for her to be entrusted back to her parents. In time, when she is over 18, she may accept Sheikh Puji and marry him officially.”

The sentence demand comes a year after the Attorney General’s Office said it would challenge the decision of a Central Java court to throw out the child abuse charges in a preliminary ruling.

The Unggaran District Court said prosecutors had failed to detail how and when the defendant had committed the acts for which he had been accused.

Prosecutors challenged the ruling at the Central Java High Court and won. Pujiono lost an appeal in the Supreme Court.

Prosecutor Suningsih told the court that Pujiono should be detained.

“He has been charged with deliberate deception to persuade the child to fulfill his desires and have intercourse with him,” Suningsih said.

“He did not respect the law in Indonesia. The actions of the defendant are acts of abuse against this child because he assumes that money can buy him anything.”

Additional reporting by AFP.


This article was found at:

http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/home/cleric-with-child-bride-should-be-jailed-six-years-court-told/402657


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