Alexander Aan, the Indonesian atheist sentenced to 30 months in prison for merely saying that he is an atheist on Facebook, has been released from prison after 18 months. Unfortunately, he now will likely have to remain in hiding because of threats to his life. He was already beaten by an angry mob before going to prison. Michael De Dora reports on what’s going on:
In January 2012, Aan was attacked at his workplace by an angry mob over posts he made on Facebook about his atheism, as well as cartoons he shared that were critical of Islamic prophet Muhammad. When police arrived, they arrested Aan and charged him with blasphemy, promoting atheism, lying on an official government document (Indonesia requires its citizens to claim one of six official religion; Aan marked Islam), and disseminating information aimed at inciting religious hatred or hostility. In June 2012, a district court found Aan guilty of disseminating information aimed at inciting religious hatred or hostility, and sentenced him to 30 months in prison. He was also fined 100 million rupiah (US $8,190).
My colleagues and I at the Center for Inquiry are ecstatic to learn that Aan has been released from prison. Aan did nothing more than exercise the most basic of human rights — the freedom to believe and to express one’s beliefs — and for that he lost 18 months of his life. That is unconscionable.
We wanted to publicly celebrate Aan’s release when we heard about it on January 27 but, because of the high sensitivity of his case and the precarious nature of the release, we proceeded cautiously. I have been in constant contact with Alex’s friends, as well as other activists working on his case, to make sure all the reported facts were correct, and that announcing his release would not put him in further risk. It was only after the Jakarta Post published their story that we felt comfortable finally announcing Aan’s release.
You see, Aan is unfortunately not yet completely free. Aan was released “on license,” which means he is required to report regularly and frequently to Indonesian authorities. Furthermore, Aan is vulnerable to vigilante retribution, which means he will be forced to keep a low profile for some time. As such, I urge everyone to not draw attention to Aan or his physical whereabouts.
I certainly hope he can remain safe. Ultimately, he may need to leave the country to be safe, another victim of the barbaric blasphemy laws that are all too common.