Court Frees Facebook Mum

TANGERANG ~ An Indonesian mother-of-two was cleared on Thursday of defamation charges after emails she wrote about poor treatment at a local hospital appeared on social-networking website Facebook.

In a case that provoked outrage across the mainly Muslim nation, Prita Mulyasari, 32, was facing six years’ jail for defamation under the criminal code and had already spent three weeks in a police cell.

Her alleged crime was to complain in an email to friends about her treatment for dengue fever at Omni International Hospital outside Jakarta.

The hospital filed criminal charges after the emails were widely circulated on Facebook.

The courtroom erupted in applause and cheers when Judge Karel Tuffu threw out the case.

“We accept the objections filed by the defendant’s lawyers and rule that the indictment is legally void,” he told the court in announcing the ruling.

Mulyasari had committed no crime by complaining about public health services, he added.

Wearing a blue Muslim headscarf, Mulyasari thanked the judges and broke down in tears of joy as she left the court with her husband.

“All this has been arranged by God…. I’m grateful that there is still justice,” she said.

Arrested on May 13, Mulyasari has already been fined 30,000 dollars under the civil code for defaming the hospital, which has refused to back off its pursuit of the bank worker.

She spent three weeks in custody without charge until public outrage at her detention forced authorities to release her on June 4 and bring her before the courts to face the harsher charges under the criminal code.

More than 100,000 people signed a Facebook support group demanding her immediate release, while President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono – in the midst of an election campaign – called on the courts to be lenient.

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