Human rights group Amnesty International Indonesia has criticized the hate speech conviction of a spiritual book author who offended some Muslims after writing a Facebook post saying that those who have not seen God are “fake" Muslims.
The Pandeglang District Court on Monday sentenced Alnoldy Bahari, the author of spiritual book Kitab Sihir: Rahasia Kuno (The Book of Magic: An Ancient Secret), to five years in prison and ordered him to pay a Rp 100 million (US$7,155) fine after being found guilty of spreading hate speech, as stipulated under Article 28 of the 2008 Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) Law.
Alnoldy, known by his pen name Ki Ngawur Permana, sparked controversy in November last year when he claimed to have seen God and questioned the faith of those who declared syahada (the Islamic creed declaring belief in the oneness of God) but have not had the same experience.
On his Facebook page he wrote: “I testify that there is no god but God, but if you have not seen God, then you are a fake witness. I am a Muslim and I testify that there is no god but God. I have seen God. Have you?”
According to the Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet), Alnoldy, who had the chance to study at the Jakarta Institute of Arts, changed his Facebook privacy settings from private to public to help sell his book.
Amnesty International’s researcher on Indonesia Papang Hidayat said the conviction was flawed and violated the defendants’ rights.
“People like Alnoldy have become what we call prisoners of conscience,” Papang told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.
Papang also said Amnesty International had talked to Alnoldy’s wife to discuss the possible legal action it will take after the conviction. “We will also put pressure on the authorities to release Alnoldy as he is a victim of human rights violations.”
Alnoldy is the latest victim of the infamous ITE law, which rights activists say is draconian and a threat to freedom of speech.
The law, along with the 1965 Blasphemy Law, has repeatedly been used to charge people for merely expressing their opinions online, activists say. (dpk/ahw)