Blame game starts over
misuse of law in Prita
Mulyasari case

Facing six years in prison and Rp 1 billion (US$99,000) in fines, Prita Mulyasari, a middle-income housewife, finds herself buoyed by massive public support, while her legal opponents find themselves struggling to explain why they had to punish her so severely.

Questioned are being raised over whether the police and prosecutors were right to use the Information and Electronic Transaction (ITE) law, passed last year, in charging Prita, who was sued by Omni International Hospital for defamation after she complained about the hospital's service in an online mailing list.

The public outcry generated during her detention has cornered both the police and prosecutors in an uncomfortable position. The police, in this case, are pointing the finger squarely at the prosecutors.

"The police acted on prosecutors' directions," National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Abubakar Nataprawira said Thursday.

"They asked us to check if it was possible to use the ITE law against Prita by asking an expert witness, and according to the expert, Prita could be charged under the law."

However, deputy attorney general for general crimes Abdul Hakim Ritonga insisted his office was not to blame, saying the dossier on the case was compiled based on a police investigation.

"The prosecutors added nothing," he told hukumonline.com.

He admitted the ITE law was not part of the prosecution, only the defamation law cited in Articles 310 and 311 of the Criminal Code. He suggested the police added the ITE law during the last few examinations of the case dossiers.

"There was no irresponsible use by us of the law here," Ritonga said.

The merest hint of an apology was given by Attorney General Hendarman Supandji, who said the prosecutor in Prita's case, Banten Chief Prosecutor Rahmawati Utami, had been unprofessional in her handling of the case.

He said that when Rahmawati received the dossier from the police, she suggested the police also include Articles 27 and 45 of the ITE.

Police took her advice, but the dossier never mentioned the two articles had been suggested by her.

"The dossier should have explained the reason the prosecutor suggested those two articles," Hendarman said.

Rahmawati then recommended the Tangerang Prosecutor's Office arrest Prita for "uncooperative" behavior, he said.

University of Indonesia criminologist Adrianus Meliala, however, said only one party was to blame in the drama.

"I'll go with the police on this one. They only did their job, while the prosecutors clearly went overboard," he said.

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