Alexander Aan is still in prison

August 16, 2012

The Center for Inquiry's (CFI) petition to the White House on behalf of jailed Indonesian atheist Alexander Aan closed today with 8,000 signatures, well short of the 25,000 necessary to secure a response from the government. 

Earlier this year, Aan posted messages to Facebook expressing his lack of belief in a God, as well as several cartoons about the Islamic prophet Mohammed. As a result, he was attacked at his workplace by an angry mob. When police arrived, they arrested Aan and charged him with blasphemy, promoting atheism, and disseminating information aimed at inciting religious hatred or hostility. On June 14, Aan was found guilty of incitement, and sentenced to thirty months in prison. He was also fined 100 million rupiah (US $10,600).

Our petition, which opened July 16, pressed the Obama administration to call upon the Indonesian government to respect the rights to freedom of belief and expression and immediately release Aan. Unfortunately it fell short. 

Because Kimberly Winston of Religion News Service has already done a great job covering this story, and because I'm emotionally drained, I'll just say this:

I'm disappointed -- not necessarily in other people for not signing the petition, but for Alexander Aan, who remains sitting in a jail cell merely for stating his position on religion. This is an unconscionable violation of any decent moral code, and several widely agreed-upon international treaties, of which Indonesia is a signatory. No human being should punished for speaking his or her mind, or peacefully practicing his or her religion or life philosophy. Aan, and all others in similar situations, must be freed, and laws restricting freedom of belief and expression must be repealed.

CFI is dedicated to achieving these goals, and will announce its next steps soon. I hope people everywhere will join us in this fight. For while we might have freedom, Aan has lost his -- and that is unacceptable.