Friday, 15 June 2012

Prison term for Indonesian atheist who posted views on religion online

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Alexander Aan
An Indonesian man who posted his atheist views on Facebook has been sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison after being found guilty of "deliberately spreading information inciting religious hatred and animosity". He was also fined the equivalent of 10,000 US dollars.

As we reported on this blog earlier this year, Alexander Aan was arrested in January in his home town of in his hometown of Pulau Punjung in western Sumatra, having posted "God doesn't exist"on a Facebook page. He was also accused of posting cartoon strips deemed insulting to the Prophet Muhammad.

In passing the sentence, the presiding judge Eka Prasetya Budi Dharma told the the Muaro Sijunjung district court in western Sumatra that Aan had "caused anxiety to the community and tarnished Islam".

Prosecutors had sought a lengthier jail sentence for Aan, but in finding him guilty of inciting religious hatred, the court dropped two additional, less serious charges of blasphemy and persuading others to embrace atheism.

While Indonesian law guarantees citizens freedom of religion, it only protects those who follow Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, Confucianism or Hinduism, leaving those who publicly express their atheism vulnerable to the kinds of charges brought against Aan.

Ever since his arrest, Aan has received support from atheists and human rights activists around the world. The Atheist Alliance International has been collecting donations for a legal fund, and they are still urging people to contribute in the wake of Aan's conviction. They are also providing contact details [PDF] that can be used to contact the Indonesian authorities to express concern about the case.
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