Indonesia: Atheist Alexander Aan released from prison  30/01/2014

Indonesian atheist Alexander Aan, who was sentenced to two and half years imprisonment on 15 June 2012 under the nation’s blasphemy laws for publicly declaring himself an atheist on Facebook, was released from prison on 27 January.

Alexander Aan, a 30 year-old former civil servant, allegedly posted statements and pictures on the social networking website as a member of the Minang atheist Facebook group, which some people construed as insulting Islam and the prophet Mohammed.  

On 20 January 2012 he was charged with “disseminating information aimed at inciting religious hatred or hostility” under Article 28(2) of the Electronic Information and Transaction (ITE) Law, religious blasphemy under Article 156a(a) of the Indonesian Criminal Code and calling for others to embrace atheism under Article 156a(b) of the same code. At the conclusion of his trial on 15 June 2012  he was sentenced to two and a half years’ imprisonment and a fine of 100 million rupiah (the equivalent of US$11,000) for violating the ITE Law.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) visited Alexander Aan in prison twice, firstly in May 2012 prior to his sentencing, and again in June 2013, as part of fact-finding visits to investigate violations of freedom of religion or belief and threats to religious harmony in Indonesia, and has advocated for his release.

Although Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, has a tradition of religious harmony and pluralism enshrined in its state ideology, ‘Pancasila’, it only officially recognises six major religions and requires Indonesians to adhere to a religion. The six approved religions are Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism, while followers of other religions, and atheists, are provided no legal recognition and are particularly vulnerable to abuses under the blasphemy laws. 

CSW’s East Asia Team Leader Benedict Rogers, who visited Alexander Aan in prison, said: “We are delighted that Alexander has been released, before the completion of his sentence, and hope that he will now be free to continue his life without threat or harassment. We urge Indonesia to look very seriously at the blasphemy laws and other legislation which violates freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief.  We hope that Indonesia will protect, promote and expand the principles of religious pluralism set out in ‘Pancasila’ so that they apply equally to all Indonesians, and ensure that no one is unjustly imprisoned for their beliefs in the future.”

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663 or email kiri@csw.org.uk.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a human rights organisation which specialises in religious freedom, works on behalf of those persecuted for their Christian beliefs and promotes religious liberty for all.

For more information, please call 0845 456 5464, email admin@csw.org.uk or visit www.csw.org.uk