Doctor accused of blasphemy sentenced to 2 years over FB post criticizing 212 anti-Ahok rally

Dr Otto Rajasa while in jail as a suspect for blaspheming Islam. Photo: Change.org (https://www.change.org/p/hakim-pengadilan-negeri-balikpapan-bebaskan-dr-otto-rajasa-dari-pasal-karet-penodaan-agama)

Another person in Indonesia has been sentenced to 2 years in prison over an incident directly related to the blasphemy case of former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, who was sentenced to 2 years in May for blaspheming Islam.

Shortly after the December 12 (212) anti-Ahok rally in Jakarta, which saw an estimated 200,000 protesters take to the streets of the capital to demand that Ahok be immediately jailed, a doctor in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, named Otto Rajasa wrote a scathing criticism of the rally in a Facebook post.

Based on a description of the Facebook post by KBR.id, Otto wrote that the hajj (the pilgrimage required of all Muslims capable of it) no longer needs to be done in Mecca, as it was enough to go to Jakarta; the Holy Mosque is represented by Istiqlal Mosque, the ritual of going from Safa to Marwa is represented by a long march from the Presidential Palace to Istiqlal, while the Stoning of the Devil is represented by throwing stones at photos or paintings of Ahok.

The post was soon reported to the Balikpapan Police for blaspheming Islam, and the local branch of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) declared it blasphemous after directly questioning the doctor over the matter. Otto was then officially charged with blasphemy by the police.

At the end of the ensuing trial, the prosecution demanded that the doctor be sentenced to 3 years in prison. While reading his personal defense statement, Otto tearfully pleaded for leniency, especially for the sake of his wife and children, and defended his post as satirical in nature while reiterating his previous apologies to Muslims.

In the end, the panel of judges convicted Otto, not of blasphemy, but for a slightly lesser charge of “spreading hostility and hatred” in violation of the law on Information and Electronic Transactions (UU ITE).

“The sentence for the crime of defendant, Dr.  Otto Rajasa bin Supomo is two years imprisonment and a fine of Rp50 million, provided that if the fine is not paid it would be replaced with imprisonment for one additional month,” Chief Judge Aminuddin said in court during the reading of the verdict yesterday.

“My message is, do not think critically, we should follow the community. If you think critically in Indonesia, you will be punished,” Otto told the media after the verdict, as quoted by Benarnews.org.

Otto and his lawyers have not yet announced whether or not they will appeal the decision.

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