The case of Lia Eden, a cult leader on trial for insulting Islam. If it weren't serious it would be funny.
December 31st 2005. Lia Eden is charged with blasphemy.
According to the Indonesian constitution, Article 28 (e):
(1) every citizen has the right to hold religious beliefs and pray according to these beliefs, choose their education and form of teaching, choose their job, choose their citizenship, live in this country, leave and return to the country; (2) every citizen has the right to hold personal beliefs and express their thoughts and attitudes according to what they believe is right. (Source is here, a worthwhile read).
Not according to the Jakarta police force however as today they formally charged “Lia Eden”, real name Lia Aminuddin, with blasphemy and held her in custody for questioning. Her followers however, were released without charge.
It appears the woman claims to be the Holy Spirit as well as God’s messenger Gabriel, perhaps among other things.
Probably the police would have ignored the matter from the beginning if the mob had not spoken. Thousands of residents from the Bungur, Senen, Central Jakarta area surrounded the home of Lia Aminuddin and demanded justice against a person practising freedom of religion.
She has been charged under Article 156a of the Criminal Code on blasphemy, which carries a maximum punishment of five years in jail. Her case will soon be brought to the attention of the prosecutor’s office.
January 6th 2006. A student protest over the Lia Eden trial.
A small group of students from the Jakarta State Islamic University (UIN) protested outside the Jakarta police headquarters yesterday condemning the arrest and charging, for blasphemy, of Lia Aminuddin, the leader of the Eden sect as reported here.
The students, marching under the banner of the Ciputat Student Forum (Formaci), carried banners and posters saying “reject violence in the name of religion”, and “stop discrimination towards the Eden community”.
Coordinator Kusnandar said that the protest was organized to support the freedom of religion and religious beliefs as stipulated in Article 29 of the Constitution.
We believe that freedom of religion and religious beliefs are no longer protected by the state as mandated by the Constitution.
We also demand that the law that includes blasphemy be revoked because it is in contradiction to the Constitution.
He said that every person has the right to freedom of religion and no one, not the police or any other government institution, can deny that.
Differences in religion should be resolved through dialogue, not repressive action. After all, Lia’s group was only conducting what they believed in, not blasphemy.
June 20th 2006. Lia Eden, real name Lia Aminuddin, leader of the "God's Kingdom" ("Tahta Suci Kerajaan Eden") group, is being tried in Jakarta for blasphemy against Islam, as well as disturbing public order, and committing criminal acts against children. Her trial seems to be some sort of comedy show but this should be tempered with the knowledge of the legal circumstances of the case.
The relevant law under which she is charged, in terms of blasphemy, says Hukum Online, is article 156 of the criminal code, and reads:
anyone who deliberately and publicly acts or makes known thoughts which involve hatred, misuse, or insulting of any religion followed in Indonesia shall be sentenced to a maximum of five years' jail.
(barang siapa dengan sengaja di muka umum mengeluarkan perasaan atau melakukan perbuatan yang pada pokoknya bersifat permusuhan, penyalahgunaan atau penodaan terhadap suatu agama yang dianut di Indonesia, dipidana maksimal lima tahun penjara.)
Her litany of alleged crimes in the blasphemy area is long.
She is accused of claiming that one Mohammad Abdul Rachman is the reincarnation of the Muslim prophet Muhammad. She also carried out prayers in more than one language, and is accused of twisting the meanings of various verses in the Quran to support the proposition that she is the angel Gabriel, and of making halal the eating of pork meat. She has also on occasion been known to claim that she is the Mahdi, the Virgin Mary, and that one of her followers, Ahmad Mukti, is Jesus Christ.
In terms of acts against children Lia is accused of setting a 9-year-old child's hair on fire seven times, for obscure religious reasons.
It has actually taken a long time for Lia to be brought before the courts. As long ago as December 1997, the Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI) condemned the writings of Lia as heresy.
Her trial began in early April 2006 and all the while Lia has reportedly rejected the validity of the hearing, considering that she is God's prophet and cannot be tried by mere men. She has also asked that the presiding judge, Lief Sufidjullah, make known his acceptance of the fact that Lia has a lofty position in heaven, as the Spirit of Gabriel, God's messenger. Judge Lief appears unwilling to accede to these demands however.
Lia Faints in Court. Her followers claim that she fainted due to her being possessed of the spirit of Gabriel.
At one point in the trial she asked the judge to bring Gabriel himself before the court to testify on her behalf. Any questions, she said, should be directed at Gabriel, not herself.
Lia has not been without legal support. At the commencement of her trial she was represented by a team of 50 lawyers. Whether those fifty have stuck with her is unclear, as her trial continues.
29th June 2006. Lia was sentenced to two years' imprisonment at the conclusion of her trial today, says Antara. The prosecutor had demanded the maximum punishment of five years. Chief judge Lief Sufijullah read the verdict and said Lia had been proven to have offended the teachings of one of the "protected" religions of Indonesia, and had also carried out unlawful acts against children. On a third charge, that of attempting to incite hatred among groups in society, she was cleared. No such hatred had been aroused by Lia, said the judge.
The judge went on to say that what had condemned Lia in the court's view was that she had distorted verses of the Quran to suit her own interests and that she had made the running of the trial difficult, by her peculiar behaviour. But, oddly, he said that a mitigating factor for Lia was that she had behaved respectfully in court.
Another presiding judge, one Ridwan Mansyur, said that Lia was being punished for besmirching the good name of Islam but not for her religious beliefs. He said:
So anyone can hold their own religious beliefs, but don't insult other religions.
December 16th 2008. Lia Eden, along with 20 of her followers, was arrested again on accusations of blasphemy and is currently being questioned by police.