Facing Prison, Prita Has Just One Question: Why Me?

The Jakarta Globe

angerang mother Prita Mulyasari, facing jail time after the Supreme Court found her guilty of libel, said she did not understand why law enforcers were so eager to go after the vulnerable while taking a soft stance on high-profile graft cases. 

“My case is just one of many small cases that prosecutors have eagerly pursued. I really find it odd that our law-enforcement officials prefer to handle small cases rather than big corruption cases,” the 34-year-old said in an interview with the Jakarta Globe on Sunday. 

“Why are things so backward in the Indonesian legal system?” 

A notice on the Supreme Court’s Web site said that Prita had been found guilty of libel under the 2008 Electronic Transactions and Information (ITE) Law for e-mails she sent to friends in which she complained about the service at Tangerang’s Omni International Hospital. 

Her protracted legal battle began when the upscale hospital reported her to police for defamation and filed a separate civil case in the middle of 2008. 

The mother of three pointed to another case in Tangerang in which an elderly maid was detained on trivial charges of stealing plates and ox tail from her employer. The maid was eventually acquitted after the trial sparked a public outcry. 

Regarding her case, Prita said the ITE Law remained contentious and had never been adequately explained.

“I don’t thing the ITE Law has ever been properly explained to people. People need to be aware that they can be charged under this law for sending private e-mails,” she said. “I had heard of the ITE Law but I didn’t understand the details of it.” 

Prita said that during her trial, even the judges and the prosecutors didn’t fully understand the law, “let alone ordinary people like me.” 

But the thing that confuses her most is just why she was such a major target for prosecutors, who doggedly pursued her case for more than two years, even after the Tangerang District Court had acquitted her of the criminal charges and the Supreme Court had cleared her in the civil suit. 

“I’m wondering if the prosecutors used their hearts when prosecuting my case, which inflicted no losses on the state whatsoever,” she said. 

“Why didn’t they just stop there when I won this case? Why did they file an appeal against my acquittal?” 

The libel case became a public issue in early 2009 when Prita was detained for three weeks despite concerns that her second child still needed to breast-feed and allegations that prosecutors had accepted bribes from the hospital. 

In that election year, many prominent figures, including former President Megawati Sukarnoputri and top officials from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party, visited Prita in jail to show support. 

“I was so glad that so many people were supporting me at that time, including some prominent public figures,” Prita said. “But I just hope that their support was not merely to get sympathy ahead of the presidential election in July 2009. I hope that they really meant it and were really sincere about it.” 

Now, with a third child who is just a year old, Prita faces imprisonment again and is expected to learn the length of her sentence at a hearing today.

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