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Online Support Grows for Indonesia’s Jailed ‘Facebook Status Atheist’

A court in West Sumatra, Indonesia, recently sentenced 30-year-old Alexander Aan to two and a half years in prison and a fine of $10,600 for his atheist-sounding status on Facebook. What did he write? “God does not exist” – that was all. It also caused a mob to descend on his workplace and beat him, prior to his arrest. Now online and offline support is growing for Alexander, both in Indonesia and around the globe.

Support has come from the likes of Amnesty International, US-based Atheist Alliance International, and the Council of ex-Muslims of Britain, rallying to Aan’s defence. On June 18, a group called Center for Inquiry held a protest outside the Indonesian Embassy in Washington D.C. calling for Aan’s release. There are also groups on Facebook such as “Support Alexander Aan” which has 1,690 likes at the time of writing, and also this Indonesian-language Facebook page that supports free speech from religious extremism.

Human Rights lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis said to VOA on this issue,

Religion and faith are personal issues. There shouldn’t be any law that regulates what we believe in. Our constitution recognizes our freedom of religion and our rights to express our opinion. His [Aan’s] rights must be protected even if he stated that he was an atheist.

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