Prita Avoids Jail But Is Still Angry Over Criminal Tag
Prita Mulyasari was given a suspended six-month sentence on Monday that allows the mother of three to avoid jail in a controversial libel case.
The Supreme Court found Prita guilty of libeling Tangerang’s Omni International Hospital for an e-mail she sent to friends complaining about its service. But the suspended sentence means Prita avoids jail in a three-year legal saga that has outraged many in the country.
Supreme Court Justice Salman Luthan was quoted by Antara news agency as saying that if Prita stayed out of trouble for the next year, the six-month sentence wouldn’t be imposed.
Salman was the lone dissenting voice in the court’s guilty verdict, arguing that Prita’s e-mail was valid as it was connected to her treatment by the hospital.
“That’s why it does not qualify as libel,” he said.
Prita’s lawyer, Slamet Yuwono, said that although Prita had received only a suspended sentence, they would challenge the guilty verdict.
“We cannot accept the Supreme Court ruling and we will file for a judicial review as soon as we receive the official copy of the verdict from the Tangerang District Court,” he said.
“Hopefully, we can get the copy within 14 working days or even sooner.”
The lawyer said that despite the suspended sentence, Prita still had to carry around the stigma of being a convicted criminal, which he said was unfair for his client.
Speaking in Bali, the minister for women’s empowerment, Linda Gumelar, offered her support for Prita.
The minister said the guilty verdict was “regrettable” because the e-mail in question was meant as constructive criticism for the hospital.
“I hope that law enforcement officials will … deliver a just verdict that champions the vulnerable,” she said on Monday. “We don’t want Prita to have to carry around the label of criminal in the eyes of her children and family.”
Gumelar said any criticism of public or private services should be welcomed and that Prita did not deserve her conviction.
She stressed, however, that the government should not interfere in the case, even if some officials disagreed with the court’s decision.
The verdict was met with some public anger. One supporter denounced the ruling on news radio station El Shinta, and called for a boycott of Omni.
“So the court says the law must be upheld. I say don’t stop with Prita. I’m calling on my friends and all listeners to never visit Omni for treatment, and the hospital can sue me and the court can convict me,” the caller said, without giving his name.
“Under the standard set by the Prita case, my penalty for violating the ITE [Electronic Transactions and Information Law] is even heavier,” he said.
Elisabeth Oktofani & Made Arya Kencana