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Indonesian court sentences teacher to death for raping 13 students

The case of Herry Wirawan, who initially received a life sentence, has shined a spotlight on sexual violence in the country’s religious boarding schools.
Image: Herry Wirawan
Indonesian teacher Herry Wirawan is escorted before his trial in Bandung, West Java, on Feb. 15.Timur Matahari / AFP via Getty Images file
/ Source: Reuters

JAKARTA, Indonesia — An Indonesian court handed down a death sentence on Monday to a teacher for raping 13 girls at an Islamic school, upholding an appeal by prosecutors for the death penalty after he had initially received a sentence of life in prison.

The case of teacher Herry Wirawan has shocked Indonesia and shined a spotlight on the need to protect children from sexual violence in the country’s religious boarding schools.

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After he was sentenced to life in jail by a court in the city of Bandung in February, prosecutors who had called for the death penalty filed an appeal.

“(We) hereby punish the defendant with the death penalty,” the judge said in a statement on Monday posted on the Bandung High Court’s website.

Ira Mambo, Herry’s lawyer, declined to comment on whether there would be an appeal, citing a need to see the full ruling from the court.

A spokesperson for the local prosecutor’s office also said it would wait to receive the final ruling before commenting.

From 2016 to 2021, Herry sexually groomed the 13 girls, who were between 12 and 16 years old, and impregnated eight of his victims, a judge said in February.

Indonesian officials, including the country’s child protection minister, had also backed calls for the death penalty, though the nation’s human rights commission, which opposes the death penalty, said it was not appropriate.

Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim majority country, has tens of thousands of Islamic boarding schools and other religious schools that often provide the only way for the children of poorer families to get an education.