JAKARTA (Reuters) - An Indonesian court on Borneo island jailed a man on Wednesday for eight months after he grew medicinal marijuana to help ease the suffering of his cancer-stricken wife, who died shortly after his arrest, his lawyer said.
Indonesia, which has drug laws that are among the world’s strictest, 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 Southeast Asian country, but the story of Fidelis Arie Sudewarto has stirred the sympathy and outrage of rights activists.
The Sanggau district court in West Kalimantan province jailed Sudewarto for eight months and fined him 1 billion rupiah ($75,000), his lawyer Marcelina Lin said by telephone from the court. The term was longer than the five months sought by the prosecution.
According to his lawyer, the court had found that Sudewarto 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. He is now being held in the Sanggau Correctional Institute.
The sister of the convicted man, Yohana, also said the family was still weighing up 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) also called for all charges 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.”
President Joko Widodo recently told law enforcement officers to shoot drug traffickers to deal with the narcotics emergency in Indonesia. Widodo has also been criticised by rights groups and some foreign governments for ordering the executions of convicted drug traffickers.
(Refiles story to add full name of convicted man)
Reporting by Stefanno Reinard; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Michael Perry