INDONESIA: Woman convicted of blasphemy for commenting on Mosque’s loudspeaker volume

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-044-2018
ISSUES: Freedom of religion, Right to fair trial, Rule of law,

Dear Friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information regarding criminal charges against Mrs. Meiliana, for requesting to lower the volume of the Azaan (call to prayer) in the Mosque near her house. The local prosecutor then arrested her and indicted her under the Blasphemy article of the Indonesian Penal Code. Although Meiliana’s lawyer presented evidence, witnesses and religion experts to explain that Meiliana’s statement does not constitute blaspemy, the judges ignored all this and proceeded to convict and punish Meliana.

CASE NARRATIVE:

On 22 July 2016, Mrs. Meiliana was shopping in her neighbour’s shop, and remarked to the shop owner, “Sister, now the mosque’s loudspeaker voice is rather loud, it was not so loud”. As a witness in the court trial, the shop owner admitted that this was what Meliana really said. However, after the shop owner informed her brother of Meiliana’s statement, he told his father, who then told others, and finally there were rumours that there was a “person forbidding the azaan (call to prayer)”, clearly referring to Meiliana.

After the news spread widely through social media, there was much anger and unrest. Finally, on July 29, this came to a head, with people coming to Meiliana’s house, questioning the truth of the ban on the azaan. As the crowd grew, suddenly Meiliana’s house was stoned and burned. Angry mobs also burned dozens of houses including Buddhist houses of worship in Tanjung Balai.

On 30 May 2018, the Tanjung Balai prosecutor issued an arrest warrant for Mrs. Meiliana. The prosecutor charged Meiliana for violating 156a of the Indonesian Penal Code (KUHP), which states: “By a maximum imprisonment of five years shall be punished any person who deliberately in public gives expression to feelings or commit an act [……]”

The prosecutor criminally charged Meiliana in relation with the blasphemy crime carried out on 29 July 2016, whereas on that date Meiliana was the victim of criminal acts committed by the people who intimidated her and attacked her house. The prosecutor merely referred to a statement from another person who did not see the real facts, and the Fatwa (statement) of the North Sumatera province Ulama Council (Majelis Ulama Indonesia-MUI).

In the trial, the Prosecutor had never proved the truth of the charges, unable to present a voice or video recording showing the crime committed by Meliana. The Prosecutor even stated in his claim that the evidence they presented was merely a loud speaker and an amplifier, but in fact these were never even presented in the court. Moreover, the loud speaker and the amplifier cannot explain what Meliana said, as stated in the indictment. On 21 August 2018, the court judges, which consisted of Chief Justice Wahyu Prasetyo Wibowo, Justice Saryana and Justice Erintuah Damanik, sentenced Meliana to one year and eight months imprisonment, under article 156a of the Indonesian Penal Code.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write to the authorities listed below. Ask them to ensure that the judgment issued by the Medan North Sumatera District Court is proerply reviewed by the North Sumatera High Court and the Supreme Court. In addition, the Judicial Commission must seriously evaluate and review the panel judges who applied the blashphemy law in Meliana’s case. Furthermore, the Parliament must immediately revise the Blashphemy law No 1/PNPS/ 1965 and also article 156 and 156 a of the Penal Code, as these clearly violate international human rights treaties to which Indonesia is a State party.

The AHRC is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, calling for his intervention into this matter.

To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER

SAMPLE LETTER

Dear ___________, INDONESIA: Woman convicted of blasphemy for commenting on Mosque’s loudspeaker volume Name of victims: Mrs. Meiliana Names of alleged perpetrators: Tanjung Balai Prosecutor and Anti Tolerant mass (mobs)  Date of incident: 2016-2018 Place of incident: North Sumatera Province I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding criminal charges against Mrs. Meiliana, for requesting to lower the volume of the Azaan (call to prayer) in the Mosque near her house. The local prosecutor then arrested her and indicted her under the Blasphemy article of the Indonesian Penal Code. Although Meiliana’s lawyer presented evidence, witnesses and religion experts to explain that Meiliana’s statement does not constitute blaspemy, the judges ignored all this and proceeded to convict and punish Meliana. On 22 July 2016, Mrs. Meiliana was shopping in her neighbour’s shop, and remarked to the shop owner, "Sister, now the mosque's loudspeaker voice is rather loud, it was not so loud". As a witness in the court trial, the shop owner admitted that this was what Meliana really said. However, after the shop owner informed her brother of Meiliana’s statement, he told his father, who then told others, and finally there were rumours that there was a "person forbidding the azaan (call to prayer)”, clearly referring to Meiliana. After the news spread widely through social media, there was much anger and unrest. Finally, on July 29, this came to a head, with people coming to Meiliana's house, questioning the truth of the ban on the azaan. As the crowd grew, suddenly Meiliana's house was stoned and burned. Angry mobs also burned dozens of houses including Buddhist houses of worship in Tanjung Balai. On 30 May 2018, the Tanjung Balai prosecutor issued an arrest warrant for Mrs. Meiliana. The prosecutor charged Meiliana for violating 156a of the Indonesian Penal Code (KUHP), which states: “By a maximum imprisonment of five years shall be punished any person who deliberately in public gives expression to feelings or commit an act [……]" The prosecutor criminally charged Meiliana in relation with the blasphemy crime carried out on 29 July 2016, whereas on that date Meiliana was the victim of criminal acts committed by the people who intimidated her and attacked her house. The prosecutor merely referred to a statement from another person who did not see the real facts, and the Fatwa (statement) of the North Sumatera province Ulama Council (Majelis Ulama Indonesia-MUI). In the trial, the Prosecutor had never proved the truth of the charges, unable to present a voice or video recording showing the crime committed by Meliana. The Prosecutor even stated in his claim that the evidence they presented was merely a loud speaker and an amplifier, but in fact these were never even presented in the court. Moreover, the loud speaker and the amplifier cannot explain what Meliana said, as stated in the indictment. On 21 August 2018, the court judges, which consisted of Chief Justice Wahyu Prasetyo Wibowo, Justice Saryana and Justice Erintuah Damanik, sentenced Meliana to one year and eight months imprisonment, under article 156a of the Indonesian Penal Code. Therefore, I respectfully request you to ensure that the judgment issued by the Medan North Sumatera District Court is proerply reviewed by the North Sumatera High Court and the Supreme Court. In addition, the Judicial Commission must seriously evaluate and review the panel judges who applied the blashphemy law in Meliana’s case. Furthermore, the Parliament must immediately revise the Blashphemy law No 1/PNPS/ 1965 and also article 156 and 156 a of the Penal Code, as these clearly violate international human rights treaties to which Indonesia is a State party. I look forward to your prompt action in this matter. Yours Sincerely, ………………. PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO: 1. Mr. Joko Widodo President of the Republic of Indonesia Jl. Veteran No. 16 Jakarta Pusat INDONESIA Tel: +62 21 3458 595 Fax: +62 21 3484 4759 E-mail: webmaster@setneg.go.id 2. Mr. Yasonna Laoly Minister of Law and Human Rights Jl. HR Rasuna Said Kav. 6–7 Kuningan, Jakarta 12940 INDONESIA Tel: +62 21 525 3006, 525 3889 Fax: +62 21 525 3095 3. Dr. Mualimin Abdi SH., MH Director General of Human Rights Office of the Director General of Human Rights Jl. HR Rasuna Said Kav. 6–7 Kuningan, Jakarta 12940 INDONESIA Tel: +62 21 5253006 Fax: +62 21 5253095 4. Ms. Poengky Indarti Commissioner of the National Police Commission Jl. Tirtayasa VII No. 20 KebayoranBaru, Jakarta Selatan INDONESIA Tel: +62 21 739 2315 Fax: +62 21 739 2352 E-mail: secretariat@kompolnas.go.id, skm@kompolnas.go.id 5. Professor. Amzulian Rifai S.H, LL.M, PhD Chairperson of Ombudsman of Republic of Indonesia  Jl. HR. Rasuna Said Kav. C-19 Kuningan (GedungPengadilan TIPIKOR) Jakarta Selatan INDONESIA Tel: +62 21 52960894/95 Fax: +62 21-52960904/05 6. Mr. Kahar Muzakir Chairperson of the Commission III of The House of Representative  Ketua Komisi III DPR RI  Gedung Nusantara II DPR RI, Lt I JalanJenderalGatotSubroto, Jakarta, INDONESIA Telp : +62 21 -5715566, +62 21-5715569, +62 21-5715864 Fax : +62 21 5715566 7. Mr. Abdul Haris Semendawai Chairperson of the Agency for Victims and Witness Protection  Lembaga Perlindungan Saksi dan Korban (LPSK)  Jalan Raya Bogor KM. 24 No. 47-49, Susukan, Ciracas, RT.6/RW.1, Susukan, Ciracas, Kota Jakarta Timur, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta 13750 Tel: +62 21 29681560 Fax: +62 21 29681551 / +62 21 29681557 8. Mr. HM Prasetyo Attorney General of Republic of Indonesia  Kejaksaan Agung RI  Jl. Sultan Hasanuddin No. 1  Jakarta Selatan  INDONESIA  Tel: + 62 21 7221337 , 7397602  Fax: + 62 21 7250213 9. Mr. Aidul Fitriciada Azhari  Chairperson of The Judicial Commission  Jalan Kramat Raya No. 57 Jakarta Pusat  INDONESIA Tel: +62 21 3905876 Fax: +62 21 3906215 Email: pengaduan@komisiyudisial.go.id 10. Mr. Ahmad Taufan Damanik  Chairperson of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) Jl. Latuharhary No. 4-B Jakarta 10310 INDONESIA Tel: +62 21 392 5227-30 Fax: +62 21 392 5227 E-mail: info@komnas.go.id 11. Professor H. Muhammad Hatta Ali, SH, MH The Chair of the Indonesian Supreme Court  Mahkamah Agung RI  Jalan Medan Merdeka Utara No 9-13  Tel: +62 21 3843348, +62 21 3810350, +62 21 3457661 Fax: + 62 21 3453553, +62 21 3454546 Jakarta 10110 INDONESIA Thank you. Urgent Appeals Program Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)
Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : AHRC-UAC-044-2018
Countries : Indonesia,
Issues : Freedom of religion, Right to fair trial, Rule of law,