Indonesian woman spared jail for bringing dog into mosque

Margareth (centre) testified that she went into the mosque because she was being chased. (AP pic)

JAKARTA: A Christian woman charged with blasphemy has escaped jail for bringing a dog into a mosque, 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.

Prosecutors had demanded a nine-month jail term.

But 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.

But mosque representative Ruslan A. Suhady slammed the mental health defence.

People will mental illnesses “usually roam on roads naked. This woman wore neat clothes”, he said.

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.