Jakarta urged to drop atheist case

2012-04-18 11:18

A human rights group has called on Indonesia to drop a case against a civil servant charged for declaring himself an atheist on Facebook, while urging Jakarta to repeal discriminatory laws.

Alexander Aan (31) was indicted by a local court and faces six years in prison for writing “God doesn’t exist” on his account, and starting a Facebook group for atheists, where he posted a cartoon of the Islamic prophet Mohammed.

The Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission urged Indonesia to stop the court case against Aan and “to repeal any laws which are contradictory with Indonesia’s international obligations on freedom of expression and freedom of religion” today.

“What Alexander has done does not pose a threat to public order,” the commission said in a statement. “It is also essential to emphasise that freedom of religion does not simply protect theistic beliefs but also non-theistic and atheistic beliefs.”

After writing the Facebook comment, Aan was beaten up by a mob of dozens in his hometown in Pulau Punjung in western Sumatra.

He was charged earlier this month with blasphemy, disseminating religious hatred on the internet and persuading others to embrace atheism.

The case sparked outrage among Indonesians and international activists, who showed their support on Aan’s Facebook group – which has attracted more than 2 600 followers – and circulated petitions to have his charges dropped.

Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, guarantees freedom of religion in its constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Its courts, however, have in recent years given token sentences to perpetrators of attacks on Christians and Islamic minority Ahmadis, some of which have been fatal.

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