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Indonesia: Blasphemy sentences are an injustice that must be reversed

    March 07, 2017

    The Indonesian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release three people convicted under the country’s blasphemy laws for peacefully practicing their beliefs, Amnesty International said today.

    Ahmad Mussadeq, Mahful Muis Tumanurung, and Andri Cahya are three members of a now disbanded religious minority group known as Gafatar who were sentenced for blasphemy by the East Jakarta District Court on Tuesday.

    “The sentences show how Indonesia’s vague, coercive and discriminatory blasphemy laws are being used to punish people for peacefully exercising minority beliefs,” said Josef Benedict, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

    “These individuals must be released immediately and unconditionally, and the blasphemy law, which flies in the face of Indonesia’s human rights obligations, should be repealed.”

    Ahmad Mussadeq and Mahful Muis Tumanurung and were sentenced to five years, while Andry Cahya was sentenced to three years. The three individuals were arrested on 25 May 2016 and were later charged with blasphemy under Article 156a of the Criminal Code, and with “rebellion” under Articles 107 and 110 of the Code.

    Background 

    The blasphemy provisions in Articles 156 and 156(a) of the Criminal Code criminalise “any person who in public deliberately expresses his/her feelings or engages in actions that in principle is hostile and considered as abuse or defamation of a religion embraced in Indonesia”.

    Indonesia’s blasphemy laws violate a range of the country’s international human rights commitments – including obligations to respect and protect the rights to freedom of expression, and freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

    Blasphemy cases are mostly lodged at the local level, where political actors, hard-line Islamist religious groups and security forces often collude to target minorities. An accusation or rumour is sometimes enough to land a person in court on blasphemy charges. Many individuals are harassed or attacked by hard-line groups before their arrest, and tried in court in an intimidating atmosphere. The convictions are often justified on the basis of “maintaining public order”.