Indonesian court acquits Facebook user over defamation

Indonesian court acquits Facebook user over defamation
Free bird: Erviani Emi Handayani (right), 29, embraces one of her neighbors outside the Bantul District Court in Yogyakarta, on Monday. Erviani was on trial for posting critical comments on Facebook about her husband's supervisor. The court rejected the charges filed against Erviani.

Applause, cries and sobs filled Bantul district courtroom after presiding judge Sulistyo M. Dwi Putro cleared Ervani Emi Handayani, 29, of charges relating to allegedly defamatory statements made via her Facebook account.

Sulistyo said it was not proven that Ervani's statements posted on Facebook had defamed a person.

"The charges against Ervani have not been proven. Her posted statements were simply criticism of Ayas and it is hoped that this case can become a lesson learned for both parties," the judge said before he read out his verdict at the court on Monday.

Ervani was sued for defamation after she posted comments on Facebook about Ayas, a supervisor at Jolie Jogja Jewellery, where her husband, Alfa Janto, was working. Ervani vented her anger over her husband's dismissal for refusing a job amendment.

She described Ayas and other Jolie Jogja Jewellery supervisors as "childish" and said they were unsuitable to be leaders of the company.

Sulistyo said Ervani's case did not meet elements of the definition of defamation as charged by prosecutors.

Therefore, he said, the judging panel had decided to clear Ervani of all charges based on articles 45 and 29 of the 2008 Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) Law and articles 310 and 311 of the Criminal Code (KUHP).

In the hearing, the judging panel also decided to restore Ervani's good name and ordered the return of her mobile phone, which had been confiscated as evidence.

In a hearing on Dec. 18, prosecutors demanded the court's panel of judges sentence Ervani to five months in jail with a probation period of 10 months.

The prosecutors, led by Slamet Supriyadi, purported that Ervani had electronically spread information with defamatory substance.

Ervani's case drew the sympathy of the public, which has long criticised and urged the revocation of the draconian ITE law.

In a similar case, the Yogyakarta District Court is currently hearing the trial of Florence Sihombing, who was charged under the ITE law.

Florence, a graduate student at Gadjah Mada University's (UGM) Law Faculty, is in court for allegedly libelous remarks about Yogyakarta and its residents that she posted on her Path account in September.

Florence wrote: "Yogya is poor, stupid and uncivilized. Jakarta and Bandung friends, don't stay in Yogya. Yogyakartans are b*****ds..." after suffering perceived bad service at a gas station in the city.

A number of Yogyakarta community groups reported her to the police, deeming her Path comments to be insulting to Yogyakarta's residents and allegedly in violation of Article 27 (3) of the law, which carries a maximum punishment of six years in prison and a fine of Rp 1 billion (S$106,700).

Although Florence has publicly expressed her apologies, the police decided to proceed with the case and the prosecutors brought it before the court.

She was detained for two days before the police postponed the detention on the guarantee of her family.

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