Habib Bahar Smith named suspect in online hate speech case against President Jokowi

Habib Bahar Smith. Photo: RIRA TV/Wikimedia Commons
Habib Bahar Smith. Photo: RIRA TV/Wikimedia Commons

Firebrand cleric Habib Bahar bin Ali bin Smith, popularly known as Habib Bahar Smith or Habib Bule, has been named a suspect in a hate speech investigation, as confirmed by his attorney Aziz Yanuar.

As reported by Kompas today, after being questioned by the National Police’s Directorate of General crimes for almost 11 hours yesterday, Smith’s lawyer said his client was charged with committing hate speech related to race and ethnicity, defamation against the president as well violating the Electronic Transactions and Information Act (UU ITE) for a sermon in which he called President Joko Widodo a “banci” (a derogatory Indonesian term for transgender). Video of the sermon went viral recently.

The National Police confirmed that Smith has officially been charged, but that he is not being detained by the police, which implies that his combined charges would amount to less than five years’ imprisonment — the minimum possible sentence for which the police can detain criminal suspects before trial.


In a similar case from earlier this year, a teenager was sentenced to 18 months in prison for insulting President Jokowi on Facebook.

Habib Bahar Smith, 33, is the founder of a hardline group called the Prophet’s Defender Council. The group has been in the news numerous times over the years for conducting raids and forcing the closure of entertainment spots during Ramadan, as well as attacking minority religious groups.

Last week, Smith was reported to the Jakarta Metro Police by a group of Jokowi supporters, calling themselves Jokowi Mania, for defaming the president through the very troubling remarks he made about Indonesia’s head of state in the sermon.

In front of a congregation, Smith said Jokowi was “banci” and that if his pants were pulled down one might see that he was having his period.

He also said that “The Chinese, westerners, foreign companies are the ones who are prospering. We pribumi (a loosely-defined term for native Indonesians) in Indonesia are slaves in our own country,” which is what the charge of racial and ethnic hate speech is based on.

After he was reported to the police, Smith refused to apologize and said he would rather “rot in prison”.

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