Human rights activists have called for a court to acquit a civil servant who faces up to three and a half years in prison for admitting to being an atheist.
“The sentence demand for Alexander Aan is excessive and shows the arbitrariness of the law and law enforcement officials,” Hendardi, the director of the Setara Institute, said in a news conference on Monday.
Alexander, a civil servant in Dharmasraya district, West Sumatra, came into the public spotlight in January when he was assaulted by a mob for posting from his Facebook account that he did not believe in a deity.
Prosecutors later charged him with hate crimes under the 2008 Information and Electronic Transactions Law and with blasphemy under the Criminal Code, which carries a maximum prison sentence of six years and fines of up to Rp 1 billion ($106,000).
A verdict in the case is expected on Thursday from the Muaro District Court in West Sumatra’s Sijunjung District.
Hendardi argued that Alexander should never have been charged. He pointed out that Indonesia had ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which meant the government was obliged to protect members of minority faiths, including those identifying themselves as atheists. He also said the case against Alexander violated his right to free speech.
Hendardi described the trial as a case of criminalization, pointing out that Alexander’s Facebook post in no way constituted incitement or provocation, as prescribed in the ITE law and the Criminal Code.
“Setara in no way condones the content of Alexander’s Facebook post, but the right of each citizen to free expression must be guaranteed, including Alexander’s,” he said. “This case is about the criminalization of free expression, of which anybody can become a target. The Setara institute calls for the court to free Alexander.”