07/25/2018 Washington D.C. – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on July 24, the Medan District Court in Indonesia sentenced Martinus Gulo to four years in prison and a fine of 1 billion Rupiah (approximately 68,914 USD) for religious defamation. He may also choose to serve an additional six months in jail if he cannot afford to pay the fine.
The 21-year-old Christian was found guilty of blasphemy due to a Facebook post that insulted the prophet Muhammad under the country’s Information and Electronic Transactions (ITE) law, which many find controversial. His arrest came in March after the hardline group Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) reported his online post to the police.
Rappler reported, “Gulo, who is Christian, told authorities that he made the post because he was upset that his own religion was criticized online.”
Christians only account for roughly 10% of Indonesia’s population, while 87% of the country is Muslim.
Gulo’s conviction comes after an Indonesian Muslim was jailed for five years in April under the same law for a Facebook post that radical groups deemed offensive.
The verdict was lighter than the prosecutors’ demand of five years in prison. Gulo and his legal counsel have five days to appeal the decision.
According to Southeast Asian online media outlet Coconuts, “Indonesia’s controversial blasphemy laws have been under intense scrutiny in the past few years, particularly after the jailing of former Jakarta Governor Basuki ‘Ahok’ Tjahaja Purnama in 2017 for blasphemy against Islam. Many domestically and abroad, including the United Nations, have called for abolishment of the laws as they are prone to political manipulation and have been used to unjustly persecute religious minorities.”
Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “To put somebody in jail for four years for a Facebook post shows how Indonesia’s blasphemy laws can easily be exploited by radical Muslim groups. Anyone can fall victim to these laws, especially if such groups consider your speech offensive or incorrect. Therefore, Christians become easy targets as many radical Muslims seek to erase the existence and influence of Christianity. Indonesia must revisit its blasphemy laws if it wants to be seen as a champion of religious pluralism.”