Jakarta – The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) believes that the attitude of the public prosecutor, who has submitted an appeal against the acquittal of rights defenders Haris Azhar and Fatia Maulidiyanti in a defamation case brought against them by Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, is a step backward.
Kontras Coordinator Dimas Bagus Arya Saputra said that the move runs counter to the spirit of freedom of expression and opinion.
"We consider an appeal to the Supreme Court (kasasi) by the prosecutor as a step backward to then be able to make or at least guarantee that freedom of expression and opinion in substantial terms [is no longer] guaranteed and protected in Indonesia", Saputra told CNN Indonesia on Tuesday January 9.
Saputra explained that continuing the case against Azhar and Maulidiyanti is not essential. He said that this was reinforced by the statement by the panel of judges at the East Jakarta District Court that ideas or person's thoughts cannot be judged or prosecuted.
"From there we can conclude that it is inappropriate for the contents of a person's mind or head to constitute a crime", he said.
According to Saputra, the prosecutor should also understand this and reminded the prosecutor that what Maulidiyanti and Azhar said was part of freedom of opinion.
"Especially so in a more substantial context, what Fatia and Haris did was an effort to exercise control through criticism of a public official", said Saputra.
"Because what was criticised by Fatia and Haris was the policies and attribution of Pak [Mr] Luhut himself as the Pak minister or a public official. So the prosecutor should be able to read the context of this more clearly and lucidly, that it is totally unreasonable for this case to be continued", he added.
On January 8, Azhar and Maulidiyanti were found not guilty by the East Jakarta District Court because it was considered that they had not been proven to have committed the criminal offenses in the prosecutor's indictment under Article 27 Paragraph 3 in conjunction with Article 45 Paragraph 3 of the Information and Electronic Transactions (ITE) Law, Article 14 Paragraph 2 in conjunction with Article 15 of Law Number 1/1946, and Article 310 of the Criminal Code (KUHP). Each of these articles was applied in conjunction with Article 55 Paragraph 1 of the KUHP.
The panel of judges also requested that the standing of the two defendants be fully restored. The case was tried by the chief justice Judge Cokorda Gede Arthana with panel members Muhammad Djohan Arifin and Agam Syarief Baharudin. The prosecutor however has submitted an appeal with the Supreme Court.
The National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) also said it hopes that the prosecutor will withdraw the appeal against the ruling by the East Jakarta District Court judges. Komnas HAM Chairperson Atnike Sigiro stated that in an ideal situation Azhar and Maulidiyanti should not have needed to be dragged into the legal case in the first place.
"Komnas HAM hopes that the prosecutor will consider withdrawing the Supreme Court appeal submission", Sigiro told CNN Indonesia on Tuesday. (yla/tsa)
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "KontraS Kritik JPU Kasasi Vonis Bebas Haris-Fatia: Langkah Mundur".]