November 22, 2022
JAKARTA – The son of a respected cleric in Jombang, East Java, has been convicted of sexually abusing a female student at the Islamic boarding school where he works — but acquitted of rape.
Moch Subchi Azal Tsani, the son of the owner and founder of the Shiddiqiyyah pesantren (Islamic boarding school), was sentenced to 7 years in prison by the Surabaya District Court on Thursday.
“The defendant is found guilty of violating Article 289 of the Criminal Code,” presiding judge Sutrisno said while reading out the verdict on Thursday. “[The court] sentences him to seven years in prison.”
The sentence was much lighter than the 16-year prison term demanded by prosecutors who charged him with rape. Prosecutors had also brought alternative charges of sexual abuse and molestation in their indictment against Subchi.
The panel of judges cited the fact that Subchi was an influential religious figure in Jombang as an incriminating circumstance in the case. They said mitigating circumstances were that Subchi was still relatively young; he had never been convicted of any criminal offense before; and that he was the sole earner in his family, with a little child.
After the verdict, prosecutor Mia Amiati said that the prosecutors found no mitigating circumstances to warrant a sentence of less than 16 years in prison.
Inside the courtroom right after the verdict, the defendant’s wife shouted at the three-member panel of judges: “[It’s] tyrannical.” The defendant’s mother was seen trying to calm her down.
Mas Bechi, as Subchi is popularly known in his father’s school, had refused to answer all police summons and his supporters had been involved in standoffs with the police.
Subchi’s father and the school’s founder, respected Jombang cleric Muchammad Muchtar Mu’thi, had refused to hand over his son, who eventually turned himself in in July of this year.
The police have been building their case since 2019, when they received the first report of alleged rape.
The defendant’s lawyer Gede Pasek Suardika said, without elaborating, that the case was fabricated. The lawyer rejected the verdict and might consider filing an appeal against the conviction. “We are still taking things into consideration,” Pasek told reporters after the trial on Thursday.
From elsewhere inside the courtroom and outside the court building, a group of Subchi’s supporters shouted against his conviction.
Earlier this month, Surabaya District Court sentenced five supporters of the boarding school to 5 months in prison for obstructing justice by helping him resist police detention.