Prosecutors Demanding Jail Term

One year ago when I took a look at this case, Syech Puji was actually acquitted of the child sexual abuse charge. But then the prosecutors vowed to appeal his acquittal.  Now the prosecutors are back in court, and are demanding that the wealthy Muslim cleric be convicted of child sexual abuse and given a 6-year prison term.

About This Case

In August 2008, then 42-year old Pujiono Cahyo Widianto aka Syech Puji got himself a child bride.  At that time, he already had a 25-year old wife, but he chose to marry Lutfiana Ulfa in a nikah siri (informal marriage).  Lutfiana Ulfa was then 11 years and 10 months old and had just started studies at a local junior high school. 

Syech Puji is no ordinary Muslim man.  He is in fact a cleric who heads Ponpes Miftahul Jannah, an Islamic boarding school in Central Java, Indonesia. Syech Puji is also a very rich man, being the owner of a handicrafts exporter, PT Sinar Lendoh Terang (Silenter). The action by Syech Puji to take Lutfiana Ulfa as his unofficial second wife caused an uproar, especially after he announced his intention to marry 2 other young girls, aged 9 and 7 respectively. 

To the accusation that he is in fact a pedophile, Syech Puji defended himself, pointing to the precedent set by Prophet Muhammad himself when he married 7-year old Aisha.  Syech Puji said then: “I’m not just doing what I like, it’s based in religion. It’s in accordance with the Prophet’s teaching. You can marry a 7 year old if you like but you can’t have relations with her until she starts menstruating.” 

Syech Puji then added that Lutfiana Ulfa has already entered puberty and thus can have sexual relationship. But Umar Shihab, a leader of the Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI) said previously: “Men should marry adults, there are a lot of other prospective brides around. Why has he married a 12 year old? The poor girl.”

Syech Puji was charged with child sexual abuse. But the 2009 trial came to an abrupt halt when Hakim Hari Mulyanto, presiding judge at the Ungaran District Court said that the indictment against Syech Puji was incomplete and vague.  Judge Hakim Hari Mulyanto said then: “Puji is acquitted from all charges and therefore, he must be released from jail.” That prompted Prosecutor Didik Kjoko Ady to reply: “We will improve our indictment and fight back.”  So here we are now, at the appeal stage.

The Appeal

Leading the appeal is Prosecutor Suningsih.  She told the appeal court: “As the owner of a religious school he doesn’t set a good example.  We recommend six years prison for him. He has been proven legally as being sexually abusive towards women, especially towards this underage person.”

And by “proven legally” Suningish was referring to state laws that fixed the minimum marriageable age for women at 16 years.  The outcome of the appeal may take some time.

Think About It

State laws say the minimum marriageable age for women is 16 years.  Syech Puji said according to the teachings of Prophet Muhammad, “you can marry a 7 year old if you like but you can’t have relations with her until she starts menstruating.” Is Syech Puji right?  If so, where is the line between pedophilia and child marriage?  Is Syech Puji a pedophile? And if Syech Puji is right, then where does the minimum age for marriage as specified in state laws come into play?

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Syech Puji – Child Marriage Or Pedophile?

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