Library of Congress

Law Library of Congress

The Library of Congress > Law Library > News & Events > Global Legal Monitor

Indonesia: Atheist Sentenced in West Sumatra

(June 18, 2012) On June 14, 2012, Alexander Aan, a civil servant charged with blasphemy, was given a sentence of two and a half years in prison plus a fine of Rp100 million (about US$10,600) by the Negeri Muaro District Court in West Sumatra, a province of Indonesia. He was found guilty of having insulted Islam and the Prophet Muhammad through statements on his Facebook page and on a web page entitled “Ateis Minang.” (Syofiardi Bachyul Jb, “Minang Atheist” Sentenced to 2.5 Yearsin Prison, JAKARTA POST (June 14, 2012). Note that Minang refers to an ethnic group in West Sumatra.)

Aan was found to have violated article 28 of the Information and Electronic Transaction Law, which forbids “knowingly and without authority” disseminating information designed to inflict “hatred or dissension on individuals and/or certain groups of community based on ethnic groups, religions, races, and intergroups [sic].” (Undang-Undang Republik Indonesia Nomor 11 Tahun 2008 Tentang Informasi dan Transaksi Elektronik [Law of the Republic of Indonesia Number 11 of 2008 Concerning Electronic Information and Transactions] [bilingual Indonesian/English text], CGAP [Consultative Group to Assist the Poor] website.)

Aan stated that he accepted the sentence, regretted his actions, and “prayed for God's mercy.” His lawyer, Deddi Alparesi, indicated that an appeal would be filed and complained that the fine “makes no sense because no one suffered any financial loss in this case.” He also argued that the case should have been handled by the Indonesian Ulema Council, Indonesia's highest Muslim clerical body, rather than the court. (Syofiardi Bachyul Jb, supra.)

At the time he was first charged with blasphemy, public reaction against Aan was strong, with some groups even calling for him to be beheaded. (Constance A. Johnson, Indonesia: Atheist to Be Charged with Blasphemy, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Feb. 9, 2012).)