Indonesia: Online editor arrested for re-publishing prophet cartoons

AJI is calling for an international appeal to respond to the detention of Teguh Santosa, chief editor of “Rakyat Merdeka Online” (RMOL), on 19 July 2006, at 6:00 p.m. (local time). He is being held at Cipinang Prison in Jakarta.

Teguh was questioned at the Jakarta Police Office a few weeks ago based on a report made by a group of people regarding a cartoon published in the 2 February edition of RMOL. At the police station, Teguh acknowledged he had re-published three of twelve cartoons taken from a Danish newspaper, “Jyllands Posten”, which had published them in October 2005.

RMOL removed the cartoons from its site after receiving protests from some Muslim groups who felt harassed by the drawings, which they perceived as insulting to the prophet Mohammed and Islam. These individuals also demanded that RMOL apologise to Indonesian Muslims for making them uneasy and angry.

In response, RMOL published an open apology without any cartoon or picture.

On 19 July at noon, Teguh was summoned to the office of the Jakarta Higher Prosecutor, who had received the case from the Jakarta Police Office. After three hours of questioning, the Prosecutor suddenly ordered that Teguh be detained in Cipinang prison, Jakarta, for “violating the Indonesian Criminal Code (KUHP), Articles 156 and 156a”.

The articles stipulate that “whoever publicly expresses feelings of hostility, hatred or contempt against one or more groups, ethnic, racial or religious, may be sentenced to a maximum of 5 (five) years’ imprisonment.” Teguh denied the charges but finally agreed to be taken to the prison to avoid being accused of being uncooperative or defying the justice system.

Based on these facts, AJI:

1. Strongly condemns the arrest and detention of Teguh Santosa as this is clearly violating Indonesian Press Law No.40/1999, as well as Indonesia’s 1945 Constitution

2. Protests the way the legal apparatus is handling the case as it shows they cannot clearly distinguish between “insulting religion” and “practising press freedom”

3. Calls for Teguh Santosa’s prompt and unconditional release, and for proceedings against him to be dropped, since he has not committed any slander or defamation crimes.

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Born in Medan, lives in Jakarta, loves Indonesia.

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