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Indonesia eases sentence for schizophrenic woman who brought dog into mosque

The woman brought her dog into a mosque during a psychotic episode, she claims [Getty]

Date of publication: 6 February, 2020

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An Indonesian court decided to waive a nine month jail term for a woman who brought a dog into a mosque, breaking the country’s strict blasphemy laws.
A Christian woman charged with blasphemy has escaped jail for bringing a dog into a mosque while suffering a bout of psychosis, the latest religious case to draw headlines in Indonesia, the world's biggest Muslim-majority nation.

The case of Suzethe Margareth, 52, sparked outrage last summer when a video emerged showing her in a mosque in Bogor, near the capital Jakarta, wearing shoes and letting her dog run loose.

Dogs are considered impure in Islam, and wearing shoes is forbidden in a mosque.

A Bogor court ruled Wednesday that Margareth was guilty, but decided not to impose a prison term because she has paranoid schizophrenia.

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Margareth testified that she went into the mosque because she was being chased and heard voices in her head saying her husband was getting married there.

Her lawyer welcomed the decision, saying her condition was clear from the way she spoke.

Prosecutors had however pushed for a nine-month jail term.

Mosque representative Ruslan A Suhady slammed the mental health defence, saying people with mental illnesses "usually roam on roads naked".

"This woman wore neat clothes," he said.

Schizophrenia is a type of psychosis in which the person is not always able to distinguish their own thoughts and ideas from reality.

Symptoms of schizophrenia can include hallucinations and delusions during acute episodes, but can be treated with medicines and therapy.

People with schizophrenia are commonly stigmatised, discriminated against and suffer human rights violations, according to the World Health Organisation.

The dog involved in the incident reportedly died soon after being hit by a car.

This is the latest in a string of controversial blasphemy cases in Indonesia, where rights groups have long campaigned against laws they say are frequently misused to target religious minorities.

Blasphemy convictions can result in up to five years in prison.

A Buddhist woman was sentenced to 18 months in prison in 2018 for complaining about the volume of a mosque's call to prayer.

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