Prita Mulyasari faces jail over email complaint
From correspondents in Tangerang, Indonesia
June 04, 2009 06:24pm
AN Indonesian mother-of-two who sent an email to friends complaining about her treatment at a local hospital was charged with defamation and faces six years' jail.
Prita Mulyasari, 32, was charged under the criminal code in Tangerang district court, outside Jakarta, after her emails were circulated on mailing lists and Facebook.
The bank worker also faces a fine of $125,000 if found guilty of defaming Omni International
Hospital, in a case which has captured the attention of the nation.
Arrested on May 13, Ms Mulyasari has already been fined $37,500 under the civil code.
She spent three weeks in custody without charge until public outrage at her detention forced authorities to release her on Wednesday and bring her before the courts to face the new, harsher charges under criminal law.
More than 100,000 people have signed a Facebook support group calling for her immediate release, while President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
- in the midst of an election campaign - has called on the courts to be lenient.
Ms Mulyasari made no comment during her brief court appearance, which was televised live across the country.
"The defendant has deliberately spread a document containing an act of defamation through the internet," prosecutor Rahmawati Utami
told the court, which was packed with Ms Mulyasari's supporters.
The charges arise from emails Ms Mulyasari sent to friends in which she complained about treatment she received for dengue fever at Omni International.
The emails were widely circulated on mailing lists, prompting the hospital to file a complaint with police.
Members of the "Support Prita Mulyasari" page on Facebook condemned the hospital's pursuit of the case and the criminalisation of defamation in Indonesia.
"Where is democracy? Where is the 'freedom of speech'?" wrote one member of the support group.
Vice President Jusuf Kalla, who is running against Mr Yudhoyono in the July 8 elections, has described the charges against Ms Mulyasari as "unfair".
Former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, who is also running in the elections, visited Ms Mulyasari in prison yesterday to express her solidarity.