JAKARTA (REUTERS) - An Indonesian court on Borneo island on Wednesday (Aug 2) jailed a man for eight months after he grew medicinal marijuana to help ease the pain suffered by his cancer-stricken wife. She died shortly after his arrest, his lawyer said.
Indonesia has among the strictest drug laws in the world and has been jailing a record number of users and dealers because of what the government says is a drugs emergency facing the country.
The hardline approach to drugs is broadly popular in the South-east Asian country, but the story of Fidelis Arie has stirred sympathy and outrage from rights activists.
The Sanggau district court in West Kalimantan province jailed Arie for eight months and fined him 1 billion rupiah (S$100,000), his lawyer Marcelina Lin said by telephone from the court. The term was longer than the five months that the prosecution had sought.
According to his lawyer, the court had found that Arie did not have a permit to use marijuana and had supplied it to another person, although he said the judge accepted that he was not a user or a dealer.
Lin said his client, a father of two, had cried on hearing the verdict and was still considering whether to appeal the verdict. He is currently being held in the Sanggau Correctional Institute.
The sister of the convicted man, Yohana, said the family was still considering whether he should appeal. "Because any decision won't make his wife come back," she said in a telephone text message.
Rights groups and legal activists condemned the verdict. "Fidelis might have committed a crime in planting those marijuana bushes, but it was done in an emergency situation," said Andreas Harsono of Human Rights Watch. "He did that planting for his love of his wife. He should not be jailed for loving his wife," said Harsono.
The Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR) called for all charges against Arie to be dropped. "This case should open the government's eyes, especially those of the president, whose statements about the war on drugs... have resulted in Fidelis becoming one of the victims".
Indonesian President Joko Widodo recently told law enforcement officers to shoot drug traffickers in an attempt to deal with the narcotics emergency in the country. He has also been criticised by rights groups and some foreign governments for ordering the executions of convicted drug traffickers.