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Indonesian lecturer in hate speech hot water

Jail term sought for univeristy lecturer for suggesting church bombings were to divert attention from anti-Widodo campaign

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Indonesian lecturer in hate speech hot water

A bomb attack on the Pentecostal Church of Surabaya on May 13, 2018, seriously damaged the church building and killed seven Christians. (Photo by Ryan Dagur/ucanews.com)

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Indonesian prosecutors have sought a one-year jail term for a university lecturer for allegedly claiming deadly bomb attacks on three churches in Surabaya last year were a ruse to divert attention from a political campaign to oust President Joko Widodo in this year’s election.

Prosecutors told the Medan District Court on April 22 that Himmah Dewiyana Lubis, a library science lecturer at the University of North Sumatra was guilty of spreading hate speech and violating the Information and Electronic Transaction law.

Lubis allegedly wrote on her Facebook on May 13, 2018, immediately after the bombings, that they likely served to divert attention from calls by Muslim hardliners to replace Widodo, whom they said was against Islam and clerics.

The attacks on the churches killed 18 people

She allegedly included the hashtag: #2019GantiPresiden or 2019ChangePresident in the post. Widodo’s opponents repeatedly used the hashtag prior to the presidential election earlier this month.

Six days later police arrested her.

"The defendant’s actions looked to stir ethnic and religious tensions,” prosecutor Tiorida Juliana Hutagaol, told the court.

“She must face a punishment of one year in prison and a fine,” she said

Lubis’ lawyer, Rina Melati Sitompul, disputed the prosecutor’s claim, saying there was no evidence anyone was adversely affected by the post.

“There is no evidence whatsoever and its not been made clear by prosecutors which ethnic group or religion has been damaged by the post,” she said.

Bonar Tigor Naipospos, deputy director of Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, said a prison sentence would be harsh in this case.

“Cases of hate speeches must be reviewed because they were likely influenced by personal emotions,” he told ucanews.com.   

Petrus Selestinus, a Catholic lawyer, also said Lubis should not be jailed but her case should serve as a reminder for people to be mindful when they disseminate information in the public domain.

“People should be careful when uploading something on social media because they are monitored,” Selestinus said.

Officials at the attacked Surabaya churches refused to comment on Lubis’ case.

The court judges are expected to deliver their verdict on Libis next week.

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