Police nab ‘conspiracy theorists’ following Surabaya bombings
Apriadi Gunawan and Vela Andapita
The Jakarta Post
North Sumatra Police have arrested a lecturer at North Sumatra University (USU), identified as HDL, and a security guard at a regional bank, identified as AAD, over the weekend for their social media comments that suggested the Surabaya church attacks were an attempt to “divert attention” from current issues.
The police have charged them with inciting hate speech under the Information and Electronic Transactions (ITE) Law.
“What a perfect attention-diverting scenario. #2019GantiPresiden[2019ChangePresident],” HDL posted on May 13, the day of the attacks. Her post had since gone viral.
North Sumatra Police spokesman Adj. Sr. Comr. Tatan Dirsan Atmaja said that HDL, who was arrested at her house in the Johor Permai residential complex in Medan Johor, would be charged with Article 28 of the 2008 ITE Law.
“HDL told the police that she wrote the post while she was emotional from being disappointed in the government,” Tatan said on Sunday. HDL told the police she was upset over the rising prices of goods.
“Our officers have questioned several witnesses and confiscated some items as evidence, namely a cell phone and a SIM card,” he added.
Budi Agustono, the dean of USU’s Humanities Department and HDL’s direct superior, said the lecturer’s actions did not reflect the institution’s views. As a lecturer who had been teaching for 16 years, Budi said, she should have known better not to post the comment on social media.
Tatan said the other suspect, AAD, posted a Facebook comment on May 17 that said, “There are no terrorists in Indonesia, it is only a fiction, [an attempt] at diverting attention from important issues.” AAD did not elaborate on what he meant by “important issues”.
Tatan advised members of the public to be careful in sharing their thoughts on social media, as they might spark controversy that might drag them to court.
A similar incident occurred that involved a pilot of state-owned airline Garuda Indonesia, who was identified as OGT. OGT allegedly shared a third-party Facebook post on his Facebook account that said the suicide bombings in Surabaya were part of a conspiracy.
OGT commented on the post with “dudududu”, a vague expression that was perceived among netizens as supporting terrorism, and who responded to his shared post with bullying and anger. Some netizens accused him of being a radical.
OGT’s post also went viral, prompting the Garuda Indonesia management to take immediate measures against him. Garuda Indonesia corporate secretary to the vice president Hengki Hariandono said on Saturday that OGT had been suspended while the airline investigated the case.
“I am sorry for causing such inconvenience. We are attempting to uncover the reason behind OGT’s post. Should we find that he had engaged in behavior that deviated from our ethics [policy], we will penalize him according to company policies,” said Hengki, as quoted by kompas.com.
Shortly after the string of terror attacks hit West Java and East Java earlier this month, some social media users speculated that the attacks were part of a conspiracy. The conspiracy theories ranged from a smear campaign against Islam to a political motive related to the upcoming elections, as HDL had suggested.
Such conspiracy theory posts have been popular, but have also garnered attacks from other social media users that have accused the posters of supporting the terror attacks. (evi)
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