Lombok man faces imprisonment for complaining about earthquake aid on Facebook

Scenes in a Lombok village following last year’s devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake. Photo: Coconuts Bali
Scenes in a Lombok village following last year’s devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake. Photo: Coconuts Bali

These days in Indonesia, it seems like one could get in a lot of trouble for expressing any kind of thoughts on social media. For Amusrien Kholil, a resident of Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, a comment he posted on Facebook criticizing his local government almost led to imprisonment under the country’s controversial Information and Electronic Transactions Act (UU ITE). 

After months since he was first reported to the police, the Mataram District Court on July 10 found Kholil not guilty of the charges against him, and he was set free. 

However, as reported by state news agency Antara, prosecutors yesterday submitted a cassation petition to the Supreme Court, thus potentially prolonging court proceedings for this case.

So what happened exactly? 

Last August, after strong earthquakes rocked Lombok and killed 563, Kholil was one of the thousands of citizens displaced by the disaster. According to a report by Inside Lombok, Kholil was also active as a volunteer in the evacuation camps, helping other victims of the earthquake. 

Then, in September 2018, he commented on a Facebook status posted by a user named Feri EF, which highlighted that financial aid for housing has yet to arrive for those displaced, two months after the earthquake struck. 

As reported by Detik, Kholil responded to that post by allegedly saying: “Kill and drag all members of regional government if they don’t realize the financial aid soon. Slaughter all the policymakers who are digressive in helping the victims. I disagree with the local government’s approach.” 

Unsurprisingly, members of the local government in North Lombok did not take kindly to what Kholil said, and Kholil was then reported to the West Nusa Tenggara Police. He was accused of being provocative with his post, which they said could potentially create unrest in the area where he lived.

Prosecutors then charged him under Article 27 of UU ITE, which specifically addresses blackmail and threats, and demanded Kholil be sentenced to eight months in prison and a fine of IDR2 million (US$143). 

Now that his case is being brought to a higher court, it might take a while until Kholil knows for certain what awaits his future. 

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