'Minang atheist' sentenced to 2.5 years in prison

Alexander Aan, 32, a Minang civil servant who was arrested for blasphemy after he declared himself an atheist on a social media website, was sentenced to two years and six months' imprisonment and a Rp 100 million (S$13,500) fine by the Negeri Muaro District Court in West Sumatra on Thursday.

Presiding judge Eka Prasetya Budi Dharma said Alexander had been proven guilty of defaming Islam and insulting the Prophet Muhammad through his Facebook account and a fan page titled Ateis Minang (Minang Atheist).

Prosecutors previously sought 3.5 years' imprisonment without a fine for Alex.

"We considered he acted deliberately, as he did not delete [the information] after protestors reported it to police; whereas he, as an administrator of the fan page, was able to do that," Eka said.

The judge cited several sentences deemed defamatory, such as Muhammad tertarik kepada menantunya sendiri (Muhammad was attracted to his own daughter-in-law) and Kisah Nabi Muhammad bersenggama dengan babu istrinya (The story of Prophet Muhammad having sexual intercourse with his wife's maid).

Eka concluded, therefore, that the defendant had violated Article 28 of the Information and Electronic Transaction Law by spreading racial and religious hatred.

Alex said after the trial that he accepted the judges' decision, adding that he regretted his actions.

In a written statement in February, Alex said he regretted his behavior and that he prayed for God's mercy.

However, Alex's lawyer, Deddi Alparesi, said his client would appeal.

"The fine of Rp 100 million makes no sense because no one suffered any financial loss in this case," Deddi said, adding that the case should have been handled by the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI).

In January, Alex, then a civil servant in the Dharmasraya regency of West Sumatra, was arrested for blasphemy after creating the Facebook fan page, which was "liked" by more than 1,000 Facebook users. On the fan page, Alex, who acknowledges Islam as his religion on his identity card, said that he was an atheist of Minang descent from Padang, West Sumatra, which is a Muslim stronghold.

Alexander also declared that he did not believe in angels, devils, heaven and hell or other "myths".

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