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Long prison terms facing rights activists 'a danger alarm for democracy'

Kompas.com - November 14, 2023

Ihsanuddin, Jakarta – The advocacy team for democracy says it regrets the sentences demanded by the public prosecutor (JPU) against former Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) coordinator Fatia Maulidiyanti and the founder of the Lokataru Human Rights Foundation Haris Azhar in a case of alleged defamation against Coordinating Maritime and Investment Minster Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan.

During a hearing at the East Jakarta District Court today the prosecution demanded a maximum sentence of four years in prison for Azhar and three years and six months for Maulidiyanti.

Advocacy team member Nurkholis Hidayat said the sentences demanded by the prosecution against Azhar and Maulidiyanti were not objective.

"We believe that these sentences are far from being objective, because they are based on a dislike [for the defendants], not on relevant legal considerations. The facts described were very tendentious and full of fabrications", said Nurkholis in a written statement on Tuesday November 14.

The advocacy team said that they had submitted evidence in the form of documents on the examination of witnesses and experts to strengthen the evidence that Maulidiyanti and Azhar are innocent.

But the prosecution has disregarded the argumentation process in the trial.

This is because the prosecution did not address the issue of freedom of expression, conflicts of interest by public officials or the narrative of Anti Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (Anti-SLAPP, litigation intended to silence critics) which are the essence of Azhar and Maulidiyanti's criticisms of Pandjaitan.

"In fact, the prosecutor has stated that all of the issues raised were manipulation", said Hidayat.

Hidayat added that the prosecutor's demands were part of "malicious Prosecution" or a form of criminalisation because the charges are not based on the arguments made in court.

"The sentence demands read by the prosecutor contain personal hostilities, bias, or other reasons outside of the interests of justice. This can be seen from the demand for maximum sentences, namely four years in prison, and the prosecution stating that there are no mitigating factors", he added.

Another advocacy team member, Muhammad Isnur, said he believes that the sentence demands against Azhar and Maulidiyanti are a form of trampling on the law and at the same time are a danger alarm for democracy, in particular civil liberties in Indonesia.

In addition to this, according to Isnur, the sentences demands further reinforce the view that the public prosecutor's office is a law enforcement institution that has made a huge contribution to the poor state of human rights in Indonesia, in particular freedom of opinion.

"The prosecution has also acted unprofessionally because it has given birth to demands that are manipulative, evil and political. Moreover, the use of the ITE [Information and Electronic Transaction] Law again confirms that this legal product is problematic, is catchall, and undermines the public's digital rights", said Isnur.

In addition, Isnur said the prosecutor committed a very serious accusation because they consider civil society to be committing criminal acts, which are often done on the pretext of defending human rights and freedom.

"The prosecutor even quoted a buzzer at the end of their indictment. This shows the rotten state of the institution of the prosecutor's office", he said.

As has been reported, the defamation case against Azhar and Maulidiyanti began following a video discussion uploaded on Azhar's YouTube channel titled "There is Lord Luhut behind the Economic Relations-Military Operations in Intan Jaya!! There are also State Intelligence Agency Generals!! NgeHAMtam".

In the video, Azhar and Maulidiyanti refer to Pandjaitan as "playing a role" in mining businesses in Intan Jaya, Papua. Offended by the accusations, Pandjaitan then reported the pair to the police for defamation. The case is now doing the rounds in the courts.

In the sentence demands, the prosecutor said that both Azhar and Maulidiyanti were legally and convincingly guilty of violating Article 27 Paragraph 3 in conjunction with Article 45 Paragraph 3 of Law Number 11/2008 on Information and Electronic Transactions (ITE Law), as amended under Law Number 19/2016 on Amendments to Law Number 11/2008 in conjunction with Article 55 paragraph 1 of the 1st Criminal Code (KUHP).

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Tuntutan Haris-Fatia di Kasus Pencemaran Nama Baik Luhut Dinilai Tak Obyektif, Jadi Alarm Bahaya bagi Demokrasi".]

Source: https://nasional.kompas.com/read/2023/11/14/13250081/tuntutan-haris-fatia-di-kasus-pencemaran-nama-baik-luhut-dinilai-ta