January 9, 2024
JAKARTA – The East Jakarta District Court acquitted on Monday human rights activists Haris Azhar and Fatia Maulidiyanti on all counts of defaming senior cabinet minister Luhut Pandjaitan in a YouTube video.
The panel of judges said the comments made by Haris and Fatia on YouTube did not constitute criminal defamation, much to the relief of fellow activists who have long raised alarm about what they describe as an increasing crackdown on rights defenders, particularly against critics of the government.
Prosecutors from the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) had accused Haris and Fatia of defaming the coordinating maritime affairs and investment minister with comments made in the YouTube video about his alleged involvement in extractive mining in resource-rich but restive region of Papua.
The prosecution had demanded four years in prison for Haris and the removal of his YouTube channel, which hosted discussions between the two activists that prosecutors claimed defamed Luhut. They had also demanded the court sentence Fatia to three and a half years in prison.
Neither defendant will appeal, with Haris saying: “Because this is an acquittal, of course I accept the verdict”.
However, the AGO prosecutors said they would consider appealing against the acquittal.
The case started when Luhut, a former Army general, reported the two activists to the police in late 2021. Luhut said he was offended at being called “lord” and “villain” in the comments. He also insisted that he did not own any business in resource-rich Papua, and that he did not play any role in the growing military presence in the province, one of the country’s poorest regions. (ipa/jan)