Gafatar’s Case Verdict: A Blow for Freedom of Association

Banda Aceh District Court declared six board of Fajar Nusantara Movement (GAFATAR) has committed blasphemy against Islam. Teuku Abdul Fatah (Regional Council Chairman of GAFATAR Aceh) was sentenced to four years in prison. Meanwhile, the other five board of GAFATAR namely Muhammad Althaf Mauliyul Islam, Musliadi, Ayu Ariestiana, Ridha Hidayat and Fuadi Mardhatillah were sentenced to three years in prison.

The verdict against board of GAFATAR took place on Monday, June 15 in Banda Aceh District Court. The Panel Judges Hakim Syamsul Qomar, Muhifuddin and Ahmad Nakhrowi read the verdict and stated the defendants were proven legally and convincingly performed blasphemy against Islam as referred to Art. 156.a letter a of Criminal Code. “Those who deliberately, in public, express feelings of hostility, hatred, or contempt against religions will be sentenced to a maximum of five years imprisonment.”

This verdict of Aceh’s Panel Judges, is quite high compared to similar cases that ever prosecuted in Indonesia. For example Amaq Bakri’s case in Selong District Court, NTB sentenced only 1 year in prison in 2010, Alexander Aan’s case in Muaro Sijunjung District Court, West Sumatra sentenced to 2 years and 5 months in prison, in 2012. This verdict is not different at all from prosecutor who demanded 4 years in prison for board of Gafatar. In their verdict, the Panel Judges were kind of copy-paste from prosecutor’s lawsuit. The Panel Judges did not consider and ignored demurrer and pleedoi from defendants’ LA.

Hundreds of visitors also flooded this verdict, both public and civil servants of Banda Aceh. Though the verdict took place during working hour.

Regarding Banda Aceh DC verdict, ELSAM believed that this verdict had hurt citizen’s freedom of association, which is clearly guaranteed by Constitution of Republic of Indonesia. In this verdict, the Panel Judges accused this organization as a religious community who practiced teachings of Millata Abraham. Whereas during the hearings there was no evidence found that GAFATAR members led such religious teachings. They only carried out organization’s work program in the field of social, education, arts, culture and health.

If in the context it was a blasphemy accusation, it should have been based on Art. 2 Presidential Decree No. 1/PNPS/1965 on the prevention of religious abuse and/or defamation, as the “parent” Article of Art. 156.a letter a of Criminal Court, before they could be charged with Art. 156.a letter a Criminal Code, there should have been a prior order or warning against an organization which considered defaming religions in Indonesia, in a Joint Ministerial Decree of Minister of Religious Affairs, General Attorney and Minister of Internal Affairs. In this case, such Joint Decree didn’t exist. Which means, charge, indictment and verdict during this trial have no legal ground.

This verdict deeply violated GAFATAR’s freedom of expression and association which already guaranteed by 1945 Constitution of Republic of Indonesia. Art. 28E paragraph 3 states “Each person has the right to freely associate, assemble, and express his opinions.” GAFATAR is a social organization based on Pancasila, not a religious community. Under the Memorandum & Articles of Association, GAFATAR is nationalist, plural and does exist throughout Indonesia. GAFATAR is intended as a forum for young Indonesians develop themselves in social, education, health, technology, arts and culture fields as forms of participation to promote the country. Art. 28C paragraph 1 of 1945 Constitution guarantees this: “Every person has the right to self-realization through the fulfillment of his basic needs, the right to education and to partake in the benefits of science and technology, art and culture, so as to improve the quality of his life and the well-being of mankind.”

Court as a last hope that could provide justice, should have understood the law on human rights properly. But in this case, Banda Aceh District Court didn’t seem to understand it. Therefore, ELSAM as an institution or representation of society who monitor this trial, stated that we:

  1. Deeply regret the legal process and verdict of Case No. 80/Pid.B/2015/PN BNA in Banda Aceh District Court;
  2. Deeply regret the organized mobilization and mass movement of Banda Aceh’s civil servants, who participated in the bench line of this trial’s occupation;
  3. Demand Banda Aceh Appeal Court as a place to file an appeal to not being affected by any kind of pressure. Can behave independently, uphold Ethical Principles of Judges. For everyone who litigants has the right to fair trial. Everyone who litigants depends their fates and survivals on verdict;
  4. Demand Banda Aceh Appeal Court to examine this case coherently, objectively, and impartially. Because everyone is equal before the law and entitled to legal protection and human rights.

Jakarta, June 17, 2015