Bandung, Indonesia — An Indonesian high court granted an appeal from prosecutors and sentenced an Islamic boarding school principal to death for raping at least 13 students over five years and impregnating some of them.
Herry Wirawan had been convicted by a three-judge panel at Bandung District Court in February and sentenced to life in prison. He had been accused of raping girls between 11 and 14 years old from 2016 to 2021 at the school, hotels or rented apartments in the city of West Java. At least nine babies reportedly were born as a result of the rapes.
His case drew a public outcry as there were several victims over several years. Police said the victims were too fearful to tell anyone.
The Bandung High Court judges in their ruling Monday agreed with prosecutors’ appeal for the death penalty and for Wirawan’s assets to be seized.
“What he had done had caused trauma and suffering to the victims and their parents,” said the ruling the court released on its website Tuesday. “The defendant had tarnished the reputation of Islamic boarding schools.”
The lower court had ordered Indonesia’s child protection ministry to pay $23,200 in combined compensation requested by the victims and between $600 and $6,000 for medical and psychological treatment for each girl, instead of seizing Wirawan’s assets.
But the high court ruled for his assets to be seized, including a foundation he owned, and auctioned to benefit the victims and their children.
The judges also ruled that nine children born to the victims should be handed over to the Children and Women Protection Agency with periodic evaluation “until the victims are mentally ready to care for their children, and the situation allows for their children to be returned to the victims.”
The appeal court’s judges denied prosecutors’ request for chemical castration, saying someone sentenced to death or life imprisonment may not be subject to other punishments, other than the revocation of some rights.
Wirawan’s lawyer, Ira Mambo, said she would advise her client to appeal the sentence to the Supreme Court. They have seven days to do so before the court decision becomes final.
Wirawan pleaded guilty and apologized to his victims and their families during the trial.
West Java police began to investigate the case and arrested Wirawan last May when parents of a victim went to the police after their daughter returned home on a holiday and admitted she had just given birth.
The case didn’t become public until November, when court proceedings began. Police said they waited to publicize it to prevent further psychological and social damage to the victims.
In January, President Joko Widodo said he was concerned about cases of sexual abuse in Islamic boarding schools and called on parliament to speed up deliberations on a bill on sexual violence. Conservative lawmakers and Islamic groups want the bill to include prohibitions on extramarital sex and homosexual relations.