Jakarta. A civil servant in the Central Java district of Banyumas was sentenced to 3.5 months in prison on Thursday for provoking villagers to reject the burial of a deceased Covid-19 patient in their village.
Khudlori, 57, was the first of seven defendants in the same case to receive conviction. He was also ordered to pay Rp 500,000 ($34) in fine by the Banyumas District Court.
Presiding Judge Ardhianti Prihastuti said the defendant was guilty of breaching the law on contagious disease outbreak mitigation by impeding the funeral of a Covid-19 victim. She said Khudlori should serve another month in prison if he failed to pay the fine.
The hearing was held though videoconferencing, in which Khudlori was following from the Banyumas Police detention facility.
Sarjono, an attorney for the defendant, said his client will decide in a week whether to accept the verdict or lodge an appeal.
He admitted the sentence was characterized by kindness of the judge panel as it represented only a half of the prosecution demand of seven months’ imprisonment.
"But the law gives us seven days to decide and I have to first consult with my client who is being detained at the Banyumas District Police Office," Sarjono said at the courthouse.
He said Khudlori had resisted the burial because the site was only 20-30 meters from the residential area in Kedungwringin village.
The March 31 incident forced medical workers to move the funeral to neighboring Tumiyang village. But the wave of rejection continued and local officials were forced to exhume the remains in Tumiyang only a day after the burial.
Banyumas District Head Achmad Husein stepped in and led the third attempt to bury the Covid-19 victim at another village, this time went smoothly.
Police launched an investigation after the incident was widely reported by the media and named seven suspects from the two villages, with Khudlori being identified as the key perpetrator.
The six other defendants are still being tried.
Indonesia is dealing with the unpleasant social impacts of the coronavirus outbreak with poorly-informed residents blocking attempts to burry Covid-19 victims in their neighborhood for fear of transmission.
In other cases, what happened was just the opposite: relatives of the deceased rejected Covid-19 burial procedures by medical workers and snatched the body from hospital undermining the risk of catching the virus from the body. Many of the cases have been triggered by confusion over the cause of the deaths
Khudlori is not the first to get jail term for resisting burial of a Covid-19 victim. Another Central Java Court sentenced three men to four months in jail in late July for rejecting the funeral of a female nurse who died from coronavirus.
The incident in Ungaran near the provincial capital of Semarang triggered nationwide uproar because the nurse, identified as Nuria Kurniasih, was known as a frontline worker who dedicated her life to fight the virus in the wake of the outbreak.
The Kariadi Hospital in Semarang confirmed she had caught the virus from her patients at the hospital.
Media social users described Nuria, who died at 38, as a patriot for her works to save people’s lives during the pandemic but finally lost her own.
The hospital has expressed disbelief to rejection by a group of residents in Nuria’s hometown and decided to bury her remains at the hospital’s exclusive graveyard.
The three defendants, including a neighborhood leader, said they accepted the sentencing. They are identified as Tri Atmojo Hanggono Purbosari, Bambang Sugeng Santoso and Sutiadi.