Alexander Aan, who was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison in 2012 for publicly declaring himself an atheist on Facebook, was released from prison on Jan. 27.
Aan, a 30-year-old former civil servant, posted statements and pictures on the social networking site stating he was a member of the Minang atheist Facebook group, which some considered insulting to Islam and the Prophet Muhammad.
On Jan. 20, 2012, Aan was charged under Article 28(2) of the Electronic Information and Transaction Law for disseminating information aimed at inciting religious hostility and under Criminal Code articles 156a(a) and 156a(b) for blasphemy and for encouraging others to embrace atheism.
Aan was also fined Rp 100 million (US$8,190).
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), an NGO focusing on religious freedom, said in a press statement that it had visited Aan in prison twice while investigating violations of freedom of religion or belief and threats to religious harmony in Indonesia. CSW had advocated for Aan’s release.
Benedict Rogers of CSW said Aan’s release was a huge relief and he urged the government to seriously consider reviewing the Blasphemy Law and other pieces of legislation that violated freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief.
“We hope Indonesia will protect, promote and expand the principles of religious pluralism set out in Pancasila so that they apply equally to all Indonesians and ensure that no one is unjustly imprisoned for their beliefs in the future.”
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