JAKARTA — A court in Indonesia has acquitted six villagers in a dispute against a tapioca factory, ruling that the criminal charges, allegedly brought at the behest of the company, were frivolous and could not be used to silence criticism of environmental violations. Experts have hailed the ruling as unprecedented, as it marks the first time in Indonesia’s legal history in which a court has thrown out litigation considered a form of “strategic lawsuit against public participation” or SLAPP. SLAPP typically describes any kind of litigation with little to no merit that’s brought with the aim of censoring, intimidating or silencing critics speaking out against those in power or on issues of public interest. This particular case revolves around a conflict between villagers on Bangka Island, off the southeast coast of Sumatra, and a tapioca flour mill operated by PT Bangka Asindo Agri (BAA). Since the company began operating in 2017, residents of the village of Kenanga have complained about the pungent stench coming from the waste churned out by the nearby mill. Heti Rukmana, 29, whose house is 700 meters, or less than half a mile, from the factory, said the smell was so foul and intense that she had trouble breathing. “Whenever the rotten stench comes, I feel nauseous and want to throw up,” she told Mongabay. “My first child had a problem in her lungs when she was born. So whenever there’s a foul smell, I take my daughter to her room and close the door. I’m scared…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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