An Indonesian court sentenced Christian politician Ferdinand Hutahaean to five months in prison for hate speech, following his remarks regarding Muslims.
On January 4, the Democrat Party politician posted a tweet that was reported to the police as offensive to Islam on January 10, International Christian Concern reported. He posted on Twitter "It is a pity that your God is evidently weak [and] must be defended. My God is amazing, [he] is everything. He is always my defender, and my God does not need to be defended."
Afterward, Hutahaean apologized in a video claiming that his tweet was "an imaginary dialogue between my heart and mind and had nothing to do with a certain group or religion." Regardless, he had been investigated. The National Police's Criminal Investigation Agency named him a suspect of hate speech and detained him after hours of probing.
Suparman Nyompa, chairman of the judges' council declared, "The defendant Ferdinand Hutahaean has been found guilty of intentionally spreading fake news causing a stir in society" for the tweet. However, the politician denied the allegation and said he had converted to Islam in 2017. Indonesian prosecutors rebuffed his argument and claimed the identification card accurately stated he was a Christian. They said in an indictment that Hutahaen's comments "hurt the feeling of all Muslims across Indonesia and perhaps even the world."
Deputy chairman of the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace Bonar Tigor Naipospos told UCA News that "the punishment was lenient." He also said, "However, I agree with the court's decision because the punishment for Hutahaean has a political aspect." He called the accusation a political ploy designed to discredit the politician.
International Christian Concern spokesperson Addison Parker told The Christian Post in a statement, "Following the verdict of Muhammed Kace, we are relieved to learn that the final sentence against Ferdinand Hutahaean was mild, but even still, it should never have happened."
"Hutahaean isn't the first Christian politician to be brought down by public outrage, but he is a reminder that Indonesia's hypersensitivity to the public order has allowed these instances of viral outrage against misunderstandings, disagreements, and religious convictions to become a rhetorical minefield for Christians in the public eye. Religious harmony will struggle to take hold it if it comes only under threat of outrage and prosecution, as these laws only perpetuate a modern-day witch-hunt for violators of speech crimes."
Hutahaean's indictment added to the growing number of cases wherein Christians were being charged with hate speech in the country. Two other Christians-Joseph Suyardi and YouTuber Muhammad Kace-have recently been arrested and detained by Indonesian officials, who claim the pair insulted Islam.
Suryadi was accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad in a caricature, allegedly comparing him to a child rapist in a social media post. While the former Muslim cleric, Kace, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for uploading videos that criticize his former faith.
With the latest killings and attacks on Christians in the country, the Open Doors concluded that the "Persecution of Christians in Indonesia has worsened in recent years."