Indonesia: Blasphemy case stokes fears of state capture by hard-liners

Keith Loveard | UCA News

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, in his annual national address to the nation before Independence Day, urged the country to embrace its founding spirit of tolerance. Those who had fought for independence had not been able to triumph without throwing off differences of political, ethnic, religious, or class loyalties, he said.

Just five days later the Medan District Court in North Sumatra sentenced Meiliana, a 44-year-old ethnic Chinese Buddhist, to 18 months in jail for asking her neighbor in the town of Tanjungbalai why couldn’t the mosque loudspeaker be turned down. That request led to rioting in which Buddhist and Confucian temples were damaged.

It was another three days later, on Aug. 24, when Widodo commented directly on the case, but he said only that Meiliana should appeal the sentence. He said he was following the principle of respecting the independence of the judiciary, a position also taken by his predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

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