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Prosecution of suspected
‘atheist’ criticized

Activists in Padang, West Sumatra, are criticizing the authorities for prosecuting a 31-year-old civil servant for allegedly proclaiming his atheism on Facebook.

The indictment of Alexander Aan under the Information Law that carries six years of imprisonment, is bogus, according to Sudarto, the director of the Center for Interfaith Community (Pusaka).

“The charges of blasphemy brought against Alexander are based on ‘rubber articles’. Their argument, which is exaggerated, is a failure of the Muslim community and our government to take care of other more important things,” Sudarto told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

The authorities used several ambiguously phrased articles of the law to indict Alexander to serve their own interests, Sudarto said.

“Why not charge all Indonesian atheists? We’re better off paying attention to the corruptors who obviously degrade religious teachings,” he added.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Padang branch of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), Hendra Makmur, said that Alexander should not go on trial, suggesting that interfaith dialogue be used to resolve the dispute.

“We do not need to use the law all the time to solve our problems. For the Alexander case, we can use a soft approach — especially given that the defendant has stated that he wants to become a Muslim again,” Hendra told the Post.

The case should be a lesson for people on speaking out on social networking sites, Hendra added.

“The public can refer to the Journalist’s Ethics Code or Cyber Media Coverage Guidelines when using social networking sites. There are many articles that can trap people just as happened to Alexander. Following the ethics will keep you free of criminal allegations,” he added.

Alexander was arrested for allegedly creating a Facebook group called Minang Atheists.

At the Muaro Sijungung District Court on Monday, Alexander told presiding judge Eka P. Budi Darma that he was willing to become a Muslim again.

Alexander’s lawyer, Ronny Saputra from the Padang office of the Legal Aid Foundation (LBH) said that the indictment of his client was premature and claims that Alexander posted illegal text and images to his Facebook account had not been corroborated.

“Prosecutors only cited bits and pieces of Alexander’s postings that cause problems,” he said.

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