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A Medan man who stole somebody’s pet cat and butchered it has been sentenced to 2.5 years in prison to the delight of animal activists, even though his conviction was not entirely related to animal abuse.

The Medan District Court convicted and sentenced the cat butcher, who has been identified as Rafeles Simanjuntak, yesterday in the North Sumatra capital. 

“The convict was sentenced to 2 years and 6 months in prison,” Medan District Court spokesman Immanuel Tarigan told reporters today.

The court convicted Rafeles of theft under the KUHP (Criminal Code), the specific article of which contains a maximum punishment of five years in prison. 

Ironically, the sentence was heavier than what it could have been had Rafeles been convicted of animal abuse. Under the KUHP, animal abuse is punishable by up to nine months in prison or a small fine of IDR300 (US$0.02).

As such, Rafeles’ punishment is unusually heavy where animal abuse is concerned, and animal activists like the Animal Defenders Indonesia have welcomed the sentence.

“Regardless of the length of punishment, this is a lesson to all that we should be careful towards animals,” the group’s founder Doni Herdaru said. 

Animal rights activists have long called for a revision to Indonesia’s animal abuse law, which was drawn up during the Dutch colonial era, to introduce harsher punishments to prevent animal cruelty. After all, not all animal abuse cases include elements of theft that could further incriminate perpetrators and see them slapped with heavier punishments.

Rafeles was arrested in January of this year after a Medan resident named Sonia Rizkika took to Instagram telling the story of how she had just lost her pet cat, Tayo. In the post, Sonia said she had been looking for Tayo for two days when her search led her to the house of Rafeles, an alleged butcher of cats and dogs, where she managed to retrieve what she believes to be Tayo’s decapitated head and innards, among the remains of several other cats, following a confrontation with him. 

Sonia said she took Tayo’s remains to the police to file a report, only to be laughed at by the cops who didn’t seem to think NS’ crime was serious enough. Her story drew sympathy from around the country after it went viral, as well as harsh condemnation against law enforcement who eventually got up to act.

Rafeles’ neighbors said they have known all this time that he both consumed the meat himself and sold some to a market, but had left him to his devices.

This article, Medan cat butcher gets 2.5 years in prison for theft, not animal abuse, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia’s leading alternative media company.

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