Jakarta – A prosecutor in Bali has appealed a Denpasar district court verdict sentencing musician I Gede Ari Astina, better known as Jerinx, to 14 months in prison for "hate speech" against the Indonesian Medical Association (IDI).
In the previous hearing, prosecutors demanded Jerinx be sentenced to three years in prison for violating Articles 28 and 45 of the 2016 Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) Law and Article 64 of the Criminal Code.
"One of the prosecutors in the case came to the Denpasar district court at around 1:30 p.m. local time to file an appeal against [Jerinx]," Bali Prosecutor's Office spokesperson A. Luga Harlianto said on Thursday.
The prosecutor filed the document at the last minute – just within the seven-day window for appeal after the court read the verdict on Nov. 18.
Harlianto said the prosecutor considered the 14-month prison sentence insufficient to create a deterrent for Jerinx and other internet users. The verdict also failed, he claimed, to fulfill the public's sense of justice.
"The prosecutor previously said that the defendant had offended doctors and other medical workers, not only in Bali but throughout Indonesia, as they are struggling to treat COVID-19 patients," Harlianto said.
Separately, Jerinx's lawyer Wayan Gendo Suardana said Jerinx had accepted his 14-month sentence but had decided to file an appeal to counter the prosecutor's appeal.
"With a heavy heart, Jerinx accepted [the sentence] at first, but since the prosecutor filed an appeal at the last minute, we have to respond to it," Suardana said on Thursday as quoted by kompas.com.
He expressed disappointment with the prosecutor's decision to appeal, asserting that the demands were baseless.
Suardana said the prosecutors had even admitted to making a mistake in quoting elements of a legal article in their reply dossier. "This is very suspicious for us. However, we still respect their legal rights," he said.
Jerinx, the drummer of Bali-based punk rock band Superman Is Dead, was reported to the police by the IDI's Bali chapter on June 16 after the musician, who is known as an activist and endorser of coronavirus conspiracy theories, accused the association of being "flunkeys" of the World Health Organization (WHO) in a post on his Instagram account.
Legal activist groups, including the Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR), questioned the court's judgement in finding Jerinx guilty of violating Article 28 of the ITE Law, saying that the IDI was a professional association, not a societal group protected under the provision.
Article 28 bans speech that aims to fuel hatred based on ethnicity, religion or race.
Observers have long criticized the ITE Law for its draconian provisions and its infringement upon the right to freedom of expression.
The Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet) found that 24 people were charged under the law in 2019 and 25 in 2018, with journalists and media workers being the most common victims. (ami)