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Indonesian ex-minister faces jail for insulting Buddhism

Roy Suryo Notodiprojo charged with hate speech and blasphemy for offensive tweets

Roy Suryo Notodiprojo

Roy Suryo Notodiprojo. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Published: December 16, 2022 10:51 AM GMT

Updated: December 16, 2022 10:55 AM GMT

Prosecutors in Indonesia have demanded an 18-month jail term and a 300-million-rupiah (US$19,355) fine for a former sports and youth minister accused of insulting Buddhism.

Roy Suryo Notodiprojo, 54, a Muslim who is also a telematics expert, was arrested in August after being named a suspect in an alleged hate speech and blasphemy case a month earlier for tweeting pictures of President Joko Widodo’s face digitally superimposed on a Buddhist statue, which caused widespread public anxiety.

He posted the pictures in June after the government announced plans to raise the entry fee to Borobudur – the world’s largest Buddhist temple complex – in Central Java. He commented on his post that the edited pictures were funny.

The police took action after Kevin Wu, chairman of the Buddhist group Dharmapala Nusantara, filed a police report against Suryo in June despite his public apology. Also filing a police report against him was a Buddhist named Kurniawan Santoso.

During the trial proceedings at West Jakarta District Court on Dec. 15, prosecutors said the defendant violated the Electronic Information and Transactions Law that deals with hate speech, and a clause of the Criminal Code that deals with blasphemy.

According to prosecutors, the defendant’s now-deleted post could damage religious harmony in the country’s multi-religious society.

Buddhism is one of the six recognized religions in Indonesia. The others are Catholicism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam and Protestantism.

Speaking to UCA News on Dec. 16, Wu said he and other Buddhists "hope that justice can be upheld in this country so that we, as victims, can feel at peace."

"And for the perpetrator, a sentence – no matter how long – will have a deterrent effect definitely. He will be able to respect religious symbols in the future.”

He said he filed a police report against the former minister because his post caused anxiety among the public.

“The Buddhist community monitored the issue at first. When it became bigger, there were pros and cons, and many non-Buddhists condemned what he did, however, I took the move. It was because non-Buddhists, who were not directly offended, could not file a police report,” he said.

“I felt I had an obligation to help law enforcement officers uphold the law.”

Father Antonius Benny Susetyo, a member of a presidential unit promoting communal tolerance, lamented that the former minister who has a better understanding of the existing laws posted such pictures.

“People like him should become role models, instead of provocateurs. He knew that what he did could offend Buddhists,” he told UCA News.

"We must never mock other people’s religions, particularly in public. We must prevent ourselves from causing anxiety among the public.”

Meanwhile, Roy’s lawyer, Muhammad Zulkarnain, told the media that his client objected to the prosecutors’ demand.

He also said his client filed a police report in June against three Twitter accounts that initially shared the pictures, but there was no progress yet.

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