Indonesian city councilor given 1-year sentence for FB post criticizing his fellow Muslims’ treatment of Ahok

Photo illustration. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Photo illustration. Source: Wikimedia Commons

In his infamous speech in the Thousand Islands, former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama criticized those who misused Islam to attack him politically. For that, he was persecuted, protested and eventually thrown in jail for blasphemy. Many people criticized those highly politicized blasphemy charges against Ahok, and now one of them has been thrown in jail for that.

Back in May, shortly after Ahok was sentenced to two years in prison at the conclusion of his blasphemy trial, Riano Jayawardhana, a member of the West Tanjung Jabung Regency Council, allegedly wrote the following message on Facebook:

“I am personally very disgusted with Muslims who have faith but no sense as if they are most righteous, abusing religion using Al-Maidah and not forgiving others as if they’re the devil… religious reason is number one but conscience is gone.”

The comment caused an uproar and led to a member of the Tanjung Jabung Barat Muslim Community Alliance reporting him to the police in May.

Riano, who is Muslim himself, apologized for the upset caused by the post but claimed that his account had been hacked and said he did not write the message.

Nonetheless, in September, police detained and charged Riano for violating the Information and Electronic Transactions (ITE) Law (Indonesia’s much-criticized law that can be used to criminalize any online communication that could be considered insulting or defamatory).

Yesterday, a panel of judges at the local court of Kuala Tungkal found Riano guilty of “disseminating information that is aimed at generating a sense of hatred or hostility towards an individual or community group” and sentenced him to one year in prison and a fine of IDR5 million (USD 350), which was less than the sentence of 1 year and 3 months demanded by the prosecution.

In justifying their decision, the judges noted that the chairman of the local branch of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) had been personally offended by Riano’s post.

Critics of Indonesia’s ITE and blasphemy laws say both have used with increasing frequency, especially to intimidate critics of both the government and Islam. As this case proves, not even followers of Islam can criticize the actions of their fellow Muslims without fear of being reported to the police.

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