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22 Jul 2019 8:07
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  •   Home > News > International

    Indonesian woman jailed for recording sexual harassment hopes President Jokowi will free her

    Advocates for Baiq Nuril Maknun are optimistic that Indonesia's President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo will grant her amnesty, bringing an end to a years-long ordeal.

    An Indonesian woman prosecuted for secretly recording her boss sexually harassing her has asked President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to grant amnesty, after the country's Supreme Court last week upheld a guilty verdict.

    In 2012 Baiq Nuril Maknun, a 41-year-old woman from Lombok, recorded lewd phone calls with Haji Muslim, the principal of the Mataram high school where she worked as an accountant.

    While arguing that she recorded conversations to gather evidence and protect herself from sexual harassment, Nuril was charged under Indonesia's controversial Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) law for circulating indecent content and defamation.

    In a video provided to the ABC, a teary Nuril pleaded with Mr Widodo to grant her amnesty.

    "I only hope now for amnesty from you," she said.

    Nuril was initially found not guilty by a local court in 2017, but prosecutors achieved a guilty verdict after they brought her case to Indonesia's Supreme Court last year.

    After appealing the decision, Nuril was again found guilty by Indonesia's Supreme Court last week and handed a six-month jail sentence and fine of about $50,000.

    The decision cannot be appealed through the courts.

    Campaign to 'save' Nuril has widespread support

    A coalition of NGOs, calling themselves the #SaveBuNuril team, will meet with senior staff at the President's office in Jakarta today.

    "We are very optimistic about Mr Jokowi offering amnesty," Joko Jumadi, one of Nuril's lawyers, told the ABC.

    "From the beginning he was very pro-women and has committed to [freeing her] even prior to the court's decision," he said.

    A petition started last year calling for Mr Widodo to grant Nuril amnesty has attracted more than 240,000 signatures.

    Executive director of the Jakarta-based Institute for Criminal Justice Reform, Erasmus Napitupulu, started the petition.

    He told the ABC that the Minister of Law and Human Rights, Yasonna Laoly, today sent an official letter to Mr Widodo requesting the amnesty be granted.

    Mr Laoly stood alongside Nuril during a press conference on Monday, telling reporters it was possible the amnesty would come soon.

    Mr Widodo had given the case "serious attention", Mr Laoly said, adding he thought that Indonesia's Parliament would approve her amnesty.

    Another petition calling for her release has more than 315,000 supporters.

    "Many people care about Ms Nuril as a victim and want justice," Dhenok Pratiwi, campaign manager at Indonesia, told the ABC.

    "We believe President Jokowi has heard the voice of this community," she said.

    Usman Hamid, the director of Amnesty International Indonesia, told the ABC that he was "quite optimistic" about Ms Nuril being granted amnesty because it was clear she is a victim of sexual harassment.

    "There is no evidence whatsoever that Nuril has committed a crime."

    "Amnesty is the right choice instead of other available avenues [as] clemency would require Nuril to express guilt," he added.

    A case with national consequences

    Mr Widodo "has been paying attention to this case since the beginning," Mr Hamid of Amnesty said.

    The high-profile case has highlighted Indonesia's widely-criticised ITE law and brought the issue of sexual violence to the fore.

    "I, as a woman, should be protected, but then I was the one who became the victim," Nuril recently told The New York Times.

    "People should know that when we get harassed, there is no place to take refuge," she said.

    A report from Indonesia's National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) released last year showed that reported cases of violence against women rose from 259,150 in 2016 to 348,446 in 2017.

    Adriana Venny, a spokeswoman for Komnas Perempuan, told the ABC that the commission was worried that if Nuril wasn't released, more women would be hesitant to report violence.

    "There are several other cases similar to that of Ms Nuril where women have been criminalised by the ITE law," she said.

    Mr Jumadi, the lawyer, agreed, telling the ABC that "this case will have a systemic impact on women across Indonesia".

    "If there is impunity for perpetrators, female victims of violence will be afraid to report cases of violence against them for fear of being criminalised like Ms Nuril."

    Mr Napitupulu said that the ITE law "must be changed" to prevent similar cases occurring in future.

    Studies have shown that workplace harassment is rife in Indonesia.

    A national survey by Indonesia's statistics agency from 2017 found that a whopping 39.4 per cent of women who had completed high school or greater reported they had experienced physical, emotional or sexual violence in their lifetime.

    Indonesia must ratify the International Labour Organisation's Convention concerning the Elimination of Violence and Harassment in the World of Work, Mr Hamid said.

    © 2019 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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