Indonesian jailed for treating dying wife

An Indonesian man who grew cannabis to ease his terminally ill wife’s pain has been jailed for eight months, his lawyer said.

Fidelis Ari Sudarwoto, 32, who has two children, was arrested in February for cannabis possession, despite his insistence that he grew the plants because his wife depended on the drug to ease the suffering caused by syringomyelia. His wife died 32 days after he was arrested, when she stopped taking the drug.

In a statement, which went viral on social media, Fidelis said he had no choice but to grow cannabis to treat his wife, Yenni Riawati, after she was diagnosed in 2014 with the rare disorder in which a cyst forms within the spinal cord.

The statement included a letter he wrote to his late wife.

After doctors were unable to help him and exhausting other options, Fidelis read online that cannabis could be used as an analgesic to alleviate the pain. “After trying there was an apparent healing effect. At first, she did not want to sleep for days, but after drinking the extract she began sleeping soundly. At first she did not want to eat, but afterwards her appetite increased. She also began to speak again and was able to defecate with ease,” Yohana, Fidelis’ sister, reportedly told Tribun.

Sudarwoto’s arrest has sparked a heated debate in Indonesia. Human rights groups urged the court in Sanggau in West Kalimantan province to scrap the charges.

Fidelis was arrested by the National Narcotics Agency (BNN) in February for growing 39 cannabis plants at his home.

“The panel of judges weighed three aspects – judicial, sociological and philosophical – when issuing the verdict,” Judge Achmad Irfir Rohman said.

“He should have been acquitted because he did not sell or use marijuana for himself,” defence lawyer Marcelina Iin said. In addition to jail time, the court also ordered Sudarwoto to pay 1 billion rupiah (US$75,000), or spend an additional month in jail, she added.

The sentence is more severe than the prosecutors’ demand of five months in prison and a fine of Rp800 million.

An appeal is being considered. Indonesia imposes tough penalties for drug offences.

President Joko Widodo took office in 2014 promising strict drug laws and 18 drug trafficking executions have since been carried out.

Picture credit: Pixabay