Indonesian schoolgirl's rapist gets death penalty

CURUP (Indonesia) • The leader of an Indonesian gang who murdered and gang-raped a schoolgirl was sentenced to death yesterday, in a high-profile case that led to the introduction of tougher punishments for child sex offenders.

Zainal was handed the death penalty in a court on western Sumatra island, while four other men were sentenced to 20 years' jail each.

The murder and gang-rape of the 14-year-old, who was attacked by a group of men and boys in April as she was going home after school, shocked the country and sparked a national debate about a failure to tackle endemic sexual violence.

President Joko Widodo responded to growing anger over the case by introducing tough new punishments for child sex offenders in May, including a maximum penalty of death, chemical castration and forcing convicted paedophiles to wear electronic monitoring devices.

Following the discovery of the teenager's naked body in the woods, police arrested 13 people over the attack, while one alleged perpetrator is still at large.

Zainal, a 23-year-old who, like many Indonesians, goes by one name, was sentenced to death for premeditated murder, which was a crime already punishable by death before the new laws were introduced. "This sentence was handed down because the defendant was the one who persuaded the other defendants (to commit the crime)," presiding judge Heny Farida told the court in the town of Curup.

President Joko Widodo responded to growing anger over the case by introducing tough new punishments for child sex offenders in May, including a maximum penalty of death, chemical castration and forcing convicted paedophiles to wear electronic monitoring devices.

The mother of the victim shouted in protest after the verdicts were handed down, demanding all the defendants be sentenced to death.

Dr Asrorun Niam Sholeh, the chairman of government-backed rights group the National Commission for Child Protection, welcomed the decision to hand down the death penalty and said it highlighted that child sex attacks were "an extraordinary crime".

The others involved in the case, who were all minors, have already been jailed, with most receiving 10-year sentences.

The attack captured national attention when reports of the incident went viral on social media, prompting tens of thousands to sign online petitions and sparking protests in the capital Jakarta.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 30, 2016, with the headline 'Indonesian schoolgirl's rapist gets death penalty'. Print Edition | Subscribe