Yogyakarta Police agree to release law student who made insulting remarks

Yogyakarta Police agree to release law student who made insulting remarks
Florence Sihombing.

The Yogyakarta Police have granted a request to be released from custody filed by Florence Sihombing, 26, a Gadjah Mada University (UGM) graduate law student who was detained because of comments she made on social media that were considered insulting and which sparked anger among some Yogyakarta residents.

"UGM and Florence's family have given guarantees for the release from detention of Florence. We will release today," Yogyakarta Police's director of special crimes Sr. Comr. Kokot Indarto told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

He went on to say that on Monday morning UGM Rector Pratikno, the university's school of law dean Paripurna Sugarda and their entourages visited the Yogyakarta Police headquarters. During the visit they discussed the positive and negative aspects of Florence's detainment, which has sparked heated debate at the national level.

"UGM has agreed to first implement the ultimum remedium, or the last-resort principle, which means penal law procedures will be conducted as the last resort. They will first carry out an ethics examination process," said Kokot.

The Yogyakarta Police arrested Florence on Saturday afternoon after a number of local community groups, including an NGO calling itself as Do Not Betray the People's Voice (Jatisura), a reptile-lovers community and bike club Onthel, reported her to the police on Aug. 28. They claimed they were offended by Florence's comments on social media, deeming them insulting to Yogyakarta people.

On her Path account, Florence expressed her anger after being criticised for attempting to cut in front of people who were waiting in line at a Jl. Lempuyangan gas station in Yogyakarta. She wrote: "Jogja is poor, idiotic, uncivilized. Friends from Jakarta and Bandung, don't stay in Jogja."

According to the police, her comments violated the Law No.11/2008 on information and electronic transactions.

The university's school of law dean, Paripurna Sugarda, said UGM had sought an apology from Florence, having deemed her comments impolite. He said the Yogyakarta Police had agreed with the university's stance that making Florence's harsh comments on social media into a criminal case would not bring benefits to either the student or to Yogyakarta people.

"If we make it into a criminal case, this will not only endanger her future, but also taint the image of Yogyakarta residents as belonging to a society that always forgives," said Paripurna.

The dean said UGM would soon hold an ethics hearing on the case, during which Florence would be allowed to give clarifications.

Paripurna said if proven guilty, Florence could face sanctions - from warnings, to suspension of studies and expulsion from the university.

"We will also ask the community groups who filed reports with the police to revoke their reports. If they don't want to do it, UGM will give her legal assistance," said Paripurna.

On Monday, Florence conveyed her formal apology, expressing her regrets for her harsh comments. "I apologise again for the derogatory comments I made that insulted the city on social media. I hope that Yogyakarta people and the Sultan will accept my apology," said Florence at the Yogyakarta Police headquarters on Monday, as quoted by tempo.co.id.

She also thanked the university for helping her to deal with the case.

The Yogyakarta Police's action to arrest Florence over her remarks has drawn sharp criticism from a number of institutions, including the Yogyakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Yogyakarta) and the Yogyakarta Police Watch Network (JPP).

"We question the police's actions to swiftly respond to such a minor case while they continue to act sluggishly on more serious cases, such as on human rights abuses in Yogyakarta," said JPP spokesperson Farid Bambang Siswantoro.

He referred to the police's slow response in handling the murder case of Bernas journalist Fuad Muhammad Syafruddin, a case that has remained unsolved for 18 years.

Separately, LBH Yogyakarta criticised the Information and Electronic Transaction Law, saying that it was "anti-democratic" and a destruction of freedom of speech.

"It seems that we have returned back to a terror regime from the past. Our hopes for democratization and freedom of speech protections are just a myth," said LBH Yogyakarta director Samsudin Nurseha.

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