Indonesia probes cleric for marrying 12-yr girl

Police investigate whether he slept with her


A government sanctioned child protection agency is looking into reports of a marriage between a 12-year-old girl and a Muslim cleric who reportedly planned to marry more minors, according to press reports on Sunday.

"We want to clarify first with Ulfa's parents whether the marriage has taken place before taking any action," the Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI) chairwoman Masnah Sari told The Jakarta Post.

Masnah added that the KPAI would also question the girl's parents, the minister who married the couple and witnesses of the marriage between Ulfa and Pujiono Cahyo, known as Syech Puji.

Puji is a 43-year-old rich businessman who owns a Muslim boarding school in Central Java. He made headlines in local newspapers after donating billions of rupiah to the poor during the fasting month of Ramadan. His first wife is 26.

He had said the marriage of Aug. 8 was attended by "thousands" of people at his home, the paper reported.

"If the marriage has taken place, the KPAI itself will take legal action as this would violate at least six laws," she told the daily.

Under the Indonesian law, a woman must be at least 16 years old to marry. Marriage with a minor carries a maximum of five years.

A Central Java police commander told the Post that the police would investigate the case. "We will ask whether Puji has slept (with his new wife)," he said.

According to Masnah, marriage with a minor violates the laws on child protection, marriage, health, labor and welfare.

The criminal code also states that any sexual involvement with minors is a crime. The law on child protection defines children as those under 18 and threatens those who marry or authorize marriages with minors with a maximum of five years in jail or a fine of Rp 100 million.

The 1974 marriage law says a woman must be at least 16 to marry.