An Indonesian court on Tuesday sentenced an Islamic boarding school principal to life in prison for raping at least 13 students over five years and impregnating some of them.
The principal of the girls school in West Java’s Bandung city, Herry Wirawan, pleaded guilty and apologized to his victims and their families during the trial.
He was accused of raping at least 13 students between the ages of 11 and 14 from 2016 to 2021 at the school, in hotel rooms or at rented apartments, according to the indictment. At least nine babies reportedly were born as the result of the rapes.
The case drew a public outcry over the number of rapes and the length of time they occurred.
Officials said many of the victims did not report their rapes for fear of having to relive the traumatic experience, and their parents had trusted that the boarding school was guiding their children to become good and religious people.
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.
The three-judge panel at Bandung District Court convicted Wirawan of violating the Child Protection Law and Criminal Code. They also ordered the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection to pay 331 million rupiah ($23,200) in combined compensation requested by the victims and between $600 and $6,000 for medical and psychological treatment for each girl.
“The defendant deliberately committed violence and obscene acts,” Presiding Judge Yohannes Purnomo Suryo Ali said. “Instead of educating his students, he resorted to violence or threats of violence to force children to have sexual intercourse with him.”
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.”
Prosecutors had asked that Wirawan be sentenced to death as well as to chemical castration. The judges denied the request for chemical castration, saying that the Criminal Code stipulates that people sentenced to death or life imprisonment may not be subject to other punishments, other than the revocation of some rights.
Prosecutors and Wirawan’s lawyers said they are considering whether to appeal. They have seven days to do so before the court decision becomes final.