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'I made a fool of myself': Young Australian released from custody in Aceh

Sydney Morning Herald - June 6, 2023

Chris Barrett and Karuni Rompies, Singapore/Jakarta – Six weeks after being arrested for running amok in deeply conservative Aceh, Australian tradesman Bodhi Mani Risby-Jones has been released.

The 23-year-old from Noosa faced as long as five years in prison and was initially also in danger of being flogged under the Indonesian province's Sharia law.

He was accused of dislodging a passing villager from his motorcycle and throwing it on him in an unhinged, late-night rampage after emerging without clothes from the surf resort he was staying at on the island of Simeulue. He was then set upon by angry locals, who threatened to burn down the resort.

But Risby-Jones, who had drunk from a bottle of vodka in a region where alcohol is banned, reached a $25,000 financial settlement with the victim of the assault, local fisherman Edy Ron, 10 days ago.

His case has been dropped as a result and on Tuesday afternoon the Queenslander walked free.

Wearing a red vest –the uniform worn by detainees of the prosecution office in Aceh – Risby-Jones signed released documents after being transported from prison to the prosecutor's headquarters in Simeulue.

The local prosecution chief Yuriswandi, who like many people in Indonesia goes by one name, then unzipped the Australian's vest and took it off him in a ceremonial demonstration that he was no longer in their custody.

He told waiting media outside the prosecutor's office that he was grateful that restorative justice had been successfully applied and that he would return to Indonesia to go surfing.

"I'm very, very relieved and happy," he said. "I made a fool of myself and it was shown publicly worldwide."

There were no flights out of Simeulue on Tuesday night so he was due to depart on a 12-hour overnight ferry to Meulaboh on Sumatra, escorted by immigration officials, and make his way home from there.

The compensation deal with Ron, who had to have 50 stitches in his foot following the incident on April 27, had to be approved by the Attorney-General's Office before Risby-Jones could be released.

"Indonesia is intensively implementing restorative justice now where we have an out-of-court settlement," said Suheri Wira, a spokesman for the Simeulue prosecutor's office.

"There are numerous cases settled with restorative justice procedures in Simeulue. But this is the first time we have a restorative justice case involving a foreigner."

Asked what lessons could be learned from the episode, he said: "It is best to understand the local cultures, the tradition of an area before visiting that place to avoid miscommunication with locals."

Suhardi Fleno, the chief of the village of Lantik, where the surf resort is located, said Risby-Jones was welcome back.

"Bodhi made a mistake but we hope he won't be traumatised and that he won't hesitate to come back to our village," he said. "We extend our apology if there were unpleasant acts we did against him on that day.

"We also hope tourists won't hesitate to come to Aceh especially to Simeulue but of course we hope they will respect our tradition."

Source: https://www.smh.com.au/world/asia/i-made-a-fool-of-myself-young-australian-released-from-custody-in-aceh-20230606-p5deff.htm