Indonesia proposes jail for insulting president

Insulting Indonesia’s head of state could be punishable by a prison sentence of up to five years under a proposed revision to the country’s criminal code.

  • Published: 27/03/2013 at 11:31 AM
  • Newspaper section: topstories

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra speaks with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on a visit to Jakarta on Sept 12, 2011. Those insulting Indonesia's president could face jail terms of up to five years under a proposed revision to the country's criminal code. (AFP photo)

A member of the House of Representatives’ Legislative Committee revealed onTuesday details of a plan that would reverse a 2006 Constitutional Court ruling that decriminalised insulting the president or the vice president. 

“Therefore people who insult the president ... can be legally processed,” Martin Hutabarat, of the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), told the Jakarta Globe.

People who insult or defame a dead person could also face up to one year in prison under the new code, he added.

The controversial details of a revised 500-page document intended to update Indonesia’s 1918 criminal code are slowly emerging after it was proposed by the government earlier this month.

The draft seeks to punish couples caught having sex outside of marriage with jail sentences of up to five years and includes a maximum sentence of one year in prison for couples living together outside of wedlock. It also increases the maximum jail term for adultery from nine months to five years.

Perhaps most controversially, the draft includes a new article on witchcraft. Those found guilty of using black magic to cause “someone’s illness, death, mental or physical suffering,” will face up to five years in jail or up to 300 million rupiah (920,000 baht) in fines.

Penalties can be increased by a third if the sorcerer offers to perform a spell for compensation and it would also become illegal to claim to posses dark magical powers.

Retired police officer Sr Comr Alfons Lemau said it would be difficult for authorities to prove whether somebody was practicing witchcraft. 

“In my whole career in the National Police, I have never seen any suspect brought to court for practicing witchcraft,” he told the Jakarta Globe

Meanwhile, a Gerindra politician who claims to have magical powers said witchcraft should be clearly defined by law. 

“Legal experts must reach an agreement on whether or not the witchcraft practice exists. Once they believe that witches exist, the team should involve experts on witchcraft to prevent the definition from being misunderstood,” said Permadi. 

The head drafter of the revised criminal code claimed on Saturday that the witchcraft article was intended to protect people from fraud.

“It’s not the witchcraft, but the deception that is targeted under the criminal code revision,” Andi Hamzah, who originally drafted the proposed Criminal Code amendments in 1992, said. 

“The article [about witchcraft] is to protect people [from being deceived] because there are people claiming they can cast a spell but require 50 cows or pigs in return as payment.” 

Indonesia’s criminal code was last updated in 1958. The revised code was submitted to lawmakers on March 6 and must pass through the House of Representatives before it becomes law.

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