Indonesian who took dog into mosque faces blasphemy case

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — An Indonesian woman who doctors say should receive psychiatric treatment has been named a suspect in a blasphemy case after taking a dog into a mosque, sparking calls for the frequently abused law to be repealed.

A video circulating online in Muslim-majority Indonesia shows the dog running around a mosque in the West Java district of Bogor on the weekend while the woman argues with shocked worshippers. Many Muslims consider dogs to be impure.

In the video, the visibly distressed woman says she is Catholic and claims that her husband will be married in the mosque later that day. She demands an explanation from people in the mosque who apparently have no idea about the purported wedding plans. The dog reportedly later died after being hit by a vehicle.

Blasphemy is a criminal offense in Indonesia with a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Rights groups have long called for the law, which is often used to persecute Christians and other religious minorities, to be abolished.

Bogor police chief Andi Mochammad Dicky Pastika said the woman is a blasphemy suspect and an investigation is continuing. He said evidence includes a video recording, testimony from five witnesses and her shoes, which she wore inside the mosque.

"We will bring this case to the court," Pastika said. "Even if later the results of the psychiatric examination say that she has psychiatric disorders, as referred to in Article 44 of the Criminal Code, let the judge decide it in court."

As of Wednesday the woman is detained at a police hospital. The hospital head, Musyafak, said doctors are recommending her transfer to a psychiatric facility.

The woman's identity hasn't been disclosed. The hospital has said sending her to a specialized facility would let her be closer to her family and make it easier to communicate with her.

Amnesty International said the blasphemy case is "unfortunate and absurd" and highlights why Indonesia's blasphemy law should be repealed.

"The state's priority should be her wellbeing. Her actions may have felt insensitive, but these issues can be resolved peacefully, it is not a matter for the courts," said Amnesty's executive director in Indonesia, Usman Hamid.

Religious leaders called on the public to not be incited by the incident.

Yunahar Ilyas, the deputy chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council, the country's top Muslim clerical body, said he doubted the woman understood what she was doing was a threat to religious harmony.

"That makes absolutely no sense if it is done by a sane person in a Muslim-majority nation," Ilyas told reporters. "Don't be provoked," he said.

The dog, which was chased out of the mosque, died on Tuesday when it was hit by a car as members of an animal welfare group tried to capture it, one of the group's members said in a Facebook post.

Last year a court in Sumatra sentenced a woman who complained about the volume of a mosque's loudspeakers to 18 months in prison for blasphemy. She was released on parole in May.

Mobs burned and ransacked at least 14 Buddhist temples in Tanjung Balai, a port town on Sumatra, in a July 2016 riot following reports of the woman's comments.