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Indonesian Christian jailed for 10 years for blasphemy   

Critics say punishment for convert Muhammad Kace is excessive when compared to sentences imposed on Muslims
Indonesian Christian jailed for 10 years for blasphemy   

An Indonesian court has sentenced Muhammad Kace to 10 years in prison for blasphemy. (Photo: YouTube)

Published: April 07, 2022 07:13 AM GMT
Updated: April 07, 2022 08:33 AM GMT

An Indonesian court has sentenced a Christian YouTuber to 10 years in prison for blasphemy and hate speech after he was found guilty of making insulting remarks about Islam on social media.

Muhammad Kace, 56, a former Muslim who converted to Christianity, was convicted on April 6 at Ciamis District Court in West Java province. 

In passing sentence, the judges agreed with prosecutors that the offenses warranted a 10-year term.

Sentencing took place amid tight security as thousands of Muslims had gathered outside the court to demand that Kace be punished severely. 

He was accused of insulting Islam and the Prophet Muhammad by claiming the prophet was “surrounded by devils and liars.”

Kace, who used to be an Islamic cleric, reportedly began criticizing Islam after he was baptized a Christian in 2014.

“I am worried about the injustice implication for minority groups. It means that we [religious minorities] still struggle to achieve equality under the law”

While a Muslim, he taught at an Islamic boarding school and went on the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia three times.

His comments about the Prophet Muhammad were uploaded on his YouTube channel on Aug. 23 last year and went viral. He was arrested a few days later in Bali after complaints poured in from Muslims  

Police said Kace had posted at least 400 videos on YouTube insulting Islam since converting. 

Martin Lucas Simanjuntak, Kace’s lawyer, said the sentence was harsh and that his client would appeal the sentence.

“In other such cases sentences have been lighter,” he said. “We will appeal the verdict, or at the very least the sentence imposed on him.”

Jesuit Father Johannes Hariyanto, general secretary of the Indonesian Conference on Religion and Peace, an interreligious group, said he was also left concerned by the trial result. He said the harshness of the sentence looked discriminatory in nature.

Meanwhile, in another blasphemy case, prosecutors in Jakarta demanded a seven-month prison term for a Christian politician on April 5 for calling God 'weak' in a Twitter post

“I am worried about the injustice implication for minority groups. It means that we [religious minorities] still struggle to achieve equality under the law,” Father Hariyanto told UCA News on April 7. 

He pointed to a Muslim hardliner called Munarman who was sentenced in Jakarta to only three years, also on April 6, for terrorism-related offenses. 

Munarman, who like many Indonesians goes by only one name, is a former secretary-general of the now-outlawed Islamic Defenders Front, a group responsible for inciting violence against religious minorities including Christians.

“I actually don’t interfere in judicial affairs but I am left extremely disappointed by this decision,” Father Hariyanto said.

Meanwhile, in another blasphemy case, prosecutors in Jakarta demanded a seven-month prison term for a Christian politician on April 5 for calling God "weak" in a Twitter post.

Hutahaean, a Democrat Party politician, was arrested after two individuals filed police reports against him on Jan. 5 accusing him of insulting Islam.

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