Atheist Jailed in Indonesia Over Facebook Posts


An Indonesian man who declared himself to be an atheist on Facebook and posted pictures satirizing Muhammad has been jailed for two and a half years.

Reports NY Daily News:

A judge found Alexander Aan, 30, of West Sumatra guilty of inciting religious hatred and tarnishing Islam. The 30-year-old was also fined the equivalent of $10,600.

Ana was accused of writing ‘God doesn’t exist,’ and posting links to explicit cartons [sic] showing the Prophet Mohammed having sex with a maid, and being sexually attracted to his daughter-in-law.

Aan also reportedly started the Facebook group “Ateis Minang,” Minang Atheist.

Aan was arrested in January after an angry mob reacting to the Facebook posts stormed his office, where he works as a civil servant, and beat him. Police intervened and took Aan to the police station for his safety, the Jakarta Globe reported.

Specifically, Aan was charged with “disseminating information aimed at inciting religious hatred or hostility” as well as religious blasphemy, transgressing Article 156a (a) of the Indonesian Penal Code (KUHP) on dissemination of anti-religious views and Article 156a (b) of the KUHP on religious blasphemy. He was also found to be in breach of Article 28 of  the law on Information and Electronic Transactions, because he posted his views online. The judge also specifically mentioned that Aan had declared himself to be an atheist, reportedly commenting that this was not acceptable behavior for a civil servant. The judge is even reported to have gone so far as to say that every citizen is obliged by the Constitution to have a religion.

Reports that Aan has since issued an apology renouncing what he did and asking for God’s forgiveness remain difficult to substantiate, and some have speculated that any apology may be propaganda from authorities within the country hoping to make an example of Aan’s case. Indeed, a copy of Aan’s words seems to suggest only that he has shown regret that his comments have landed him in this situation, with him reportedly saying, “I accept the judgment and will abide by it. For me, faith is a personal matter and I have expressed my regret and apology to every party, including my family.”

Amnesty International has repeatedly condemned provisions in Indonesia’s criminal code that run contrary to General Comment No. 22 on the freedom of religion, which includes the freedom to hold an atheistic view, and Article 19 of the ICCP which guarantees a right to express such views. On Friday, Amnesty International released a statement condemning Aan’s sentence and calling for his immediate release. Human Rights Watch has similarly expressed concerns over what Aan’s sentence may signal in terms of free speech and human rights.

Meanwhile, the Asian Human Rights Commission has issued the following statement:

The AHRC is concerned with the overly vague criminal provisions under the ITE Law as well as the broad interpretation of the court. Whereas recognizing that freedom of expression might be limited when the exercise of it amounts to dissemination of religious hatred or hostility, the AHRC is of the view that Alexander Aan’s posts on Facebook did not amount to any of those. His posts are manifestation of his belief that his arrest, detention and sentence violate his rights to freedoms of expression and religion as guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) as well as the 1945 Constitution.


The AHRC is urging the Indonesian government to take the following measures:

– Revoke Article 156a of the KUHP and Law No. 1/PNPS/1965 which criminalise religious blasphemy and the dissemination of atheism;

– Revise or interpret Article 28 paragraph (2) of the ITE Law in accordance with its obligations concerning freedom of expression;

– Halt all prosecutions against individuals and members of religious minority groups under such provisions.

Aan’s lawyers are appealing to the West Sumatra High Court.  Meanwhile, prosecutors have also filed an appeal saying that Aan’s sentence was too lenient and that they want a review of the case.

Indonesia, while officially a secular nation, has the highest Muslim population in the world, with approximately 202.9 million identifying as followers of Islam.


Related Reading:

Atheists Rank #1 in Religious Literacy in America

Arkansas Atheists Sue To Run Ads for a God-Free Lifestyle

Atheists About As Trustworthy As Rapists To The Faithful

Image used under the Creative Commons Attribution License with thanks to Franco Bouly.


Sandra K.
Sandra T5 years ago

Kathy P & every other incredibly ignorant atheist & theist: religion hurts EVERYBODY in countries such as Indonesia. Human rights violations are commonplace & occur on a daily basis in Indonesia. Which is why it is absolutely necessary for Atheists to constantly make public posts such as the ones Alex Aan did.

Your incredibly ignorant post seems to say that the fact that Alex Aan was convicted was his own fault. Comments such as this coming from fools such as yourself enrage me. You & your self-righteous ilk have NO CONCEPT whatsoever what it's like to live under a religious dictatorship. Your comments simply show how many ignorant, uneducated Atheists there are in Western societies. Ones which I hope to never meet in my lifetime. Comments such as yours make me sick.

Sandra K.
Sandra T5 years ago

My husband & I were involved in Alex's case, trying to bring attention to what happened to him & to raise funds for his legal defense. My husband is Indonesian. It shocked both of us how many Western people are incredibly clueless & ignorant when it comes to issues such as this in foreign countries. I can see several people with these attitudes posting here. Regarding Amnesty International, we contacted them shortly after Alex was arrested, before he was convicted. They refused to respond to us & made no public statement about Alex's case until he was convicted. The lawyers in Alex's case ended up being pathetically inexperienced, corrupt legal aid lawyers who submitted a cost approximation with highly inflated numbers. Indonesian Atheists began to interfere & buggered everything up. Which is when we removed ourselves from Alex's case. We no longer have any respect, or trust, for Amnesty International, the Indonesian Atheists group, or Indonesian LBH (legal aid).

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson5 years ago

religious harm is insane. HOWEVER, i too am an atheist and i dont post inappropriate content. i only get very opinionated when i see where religion is hurting or oppressing others.

Paul Diamond
Paul Diamond5 years ago

Our Constitution guarantees people the " exercise thereof(religion)..." However, while you are free to exercise your religion it is not unlimited. The limit comes when you infringe my " exercise thereof..."


Superstition is harmful to children and other living things.

Miranda Parkinson

Yes Marilyn, a world without religion would be a world much improved!

Rose Becke5 years ago


Marilyn L.
Marilyn L5 years ago

Imagine no religion...

Laura D.
Laura D5 years ago

Any time some fundy Christian in the US whines that their freedom of religion is being taken away, they need to be showed this to understand what REAL lack of freedom of religion looks like.

Look at countries with an actual lack of freedom of religion or speech looks like before claiming you don't have either. Too many Americans claim they have neither, when they clearly exercise both rights. It annoys me that so many people can't understand what the Bill of Rights actually says.

Clearly, Indonesia has neither freedom of religion nor freedom of speech.

Melissa A.
Melissa A5 years ago

It was just stupid of him to put that on social media, he was just asking for trouble. I have a few questionable beliefs but I am sure as hell not announcing it to the world.

Peter Everts
Peter Everts5 years ago

The bain of humanity: Religious delusion, exclusion, bigotry, hatred, murder, racism and misogyny.