Geneva Council Condemns Ongoing Persecution of Apollinaris Darmawan in Indonesia

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Geneva Council strongly condemns the continued persecution of Apollinaris Darmawan in Indonesia. This month marks the completion of the third year of Mr. Darmawan’s incarceration, a 74-year-old individual who has been convicted under Indonesian blasphemy laws for expressing critiques of the country’s Muslim leaders and Islamic law.

Apollinaris Darmawan, a retired railway company executive who converted from Islam to Catholicism, has faced persistent legal challenges for peacefully expressing his opinions. In August 2020, a disturbing incident unfolded when a Muslim mob stormed his residence in Bandung, West Java, forcibly dragging him into the street and stripping him. Despite police intervention and his subsequent custody, Darmawan was charged with blasphemy for allegedly defaming Islam and insulting the Prophet Muhammad through his social media postings on platforms such as Twitter (now X) and YouTube.

The Bandung district court’s decision in December 2020 resulted in a five-year prison sentence and an 800 million rupiah (US$55,000) fine for Darmawan under the Electronic Information and Transaction Law. This latest conviction follows a pattern of legal action against him, including a 2017 arrest and subsequent four-year imprisonment, demonstrating a concerning disregard for the principles of freedom of expression and belief.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee, recognized for providing authoritative interpretations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), has explicitly stated that “blasphemy laws are incompatible with the Covenant.” Such laws should not discriminate against specific religions or belief systems, their adherents, or religious believers over non-believers. Furthermore, prohibitions against blasphemy should not be exploited to impede criticism of religious leaders or commentary on religious doctrine and tenets of faith.

Geneva Council asserts that Apollinaris Darmawan’s imprisonment, based on his controversial yet peaceful expression of opinions, is a clear violation of fundamental human rights principles. We call upon the Indonesian government to respect international treaties it has ratified, including the ICCPR, and ensure the immediate release of Mr. Darmawan.

As an independent news organization committed to promoting justice, human rights, and freedom of expression, Geneva Council remains vigilant in monitoring such cases globally and will continue to advocate for the protection of individuals who face persecution for exercising their right to express their opinions peacefully.

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