Indonesian comedian gets 7 months jail for blasphemous wisecrack

By AFP   June 11, 2024 | 03:00 pm PT
A court in Muslim-majority Indonesia has handed a comedian a seven-month prison sentence for blasphemy after he made a joke about the name Muhammad, a local legal official said Tuesday.

Aulia Rakhman, a comedian from Lampung Province on Sumatra island, was found guilty of spreading hatred through stand-up jokes at an event in December, Lampung prosecutor's office spokesperson Ricky Ramadhan told AFP.

Aulia reportedly made a joke at a cafe in provincial capital Bandar Lampung about how names like Muhammad -- inspired by Islam's founding prophet -- had lost their positive connotations due to the sheer number of badly behaved Indonesians who share them.

Muhammad is one of the most common men's names in the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation.

Aulia was imprisoned after being reported under a blasphemy law that carries a maximum sentence of five years. Prosecutors had sought an eight-month term for Aulia.

The law forbids anyone from making statements at odds with one of Indonesia's six official religions or trying to prevent someone from adhering to one of those religions.

Aulia was found guilty last week, but the verdict only came to light on Tuesday.

"The defendant admitted and regretted his actions, behaved politely at the trial, and the defendant has never been convicted," Ricky said.

"The aggravating factor was the defendant's actions have disturbed society."

The comedian's jailing is the latest in a string of blasphemy cases in the country.

In 2022, Indonesian police arrested six people on charges of blasphemy over a bar chain's free alcohol promotion for patrons named Muhammad.

Jakarta's ex-governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, better known as Ahok, was jailed for nearly two years on controversial blasphemy charges in 2017.

Rights groups have long campaigned against the laws, which they say are frequently misused to target religious minorities.

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