As the Islamic Defenders Front Target Ex-Playboy Editor, Questions Raised About Court Verdict

In an animated protest on Friday, the Islamic Defenders Front threatened to take the law into its own hands if Playboy Indonesia editor in chief Erwin Arnada failed to begin serving his two-year prison term on Monday.

The hard-line group, better known as the FPI, called on its members to arrest Erwin on sight and threatened to raid his house if he did not appear on Monday as ordered by the Supreme Court.

Awit Mashuri, deputy secretary general of the FPI, said: “If, by Monday, Erwin does not show up, all of the FPI’s troops will conduct raids to find him. We know his apartment, his house and the hotel where he is staying.”

Erwin was acquitted on charges of indecency in April 2007, but the prosecution appealed, and on Thursday the South Jakarta Prosecutor’s Office announced that the Supreme Court had found Erwin guilty and sentenced him to two years in prison.

However, confusion surrounds the verdict, which prosecutors say was reached in July 2009. Supreme Court rulings are not made public, and are instead sent out only to the concerned parties.

Normally, the South Jakarta District Court, where the original trial was held, would have received the verdict, as well as prosecutors and the defense. But in this case, the Jakarta Prosecutor’s Office says it only received the verdict on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court’s official Web page of the case contains the note, “prosecution rejected.” Court spokesman Andri Tristianto Sutrisna confirmed this to reporters on Thursday, but could not clarify whether this meant the top court had upheld Erwin’s 2007 acquittal.

“I suspect the FPI is behind this,” the magazine’s former publisher, Ponti Carolus Pondian, told the Jakarta Globe on Thursday.

Ponti sat on the board of directors of Velvet Silver Media, which obtained a license from the US-based magazine to produce an Indonesian version of Playboy.

The short-lived magazine published its first issue in April 2006. It released its sixth and final issue in February 2007, and did not publish nude pictures in any issue.

Multiple calls to Erwin went unanswered on Friday.

“I don’t even have a lawyer anymore because there is no case,” Ponti said. “This case has been blown out of proportion, and [comes] completely out of the blue. It was settled years ago in court. It is so weird that it should turn up once again.”

With the case suddenly back in the spotlight, there has been renewed debate on press freedom and freedom of expression, and what constitutes pornography.

But Awit said the matter was clear, as far as the FPI was concerned. He called Erwin a “moral terrorist” and said the case was not a press issue but “a porn issue.” He also said Erwin should have been detained a year ago.

“He has been found guilty and should have been taken to prison to serve his two-years sentence immediately following the court ruling,” Awit said.

“This shows the extent of the judicial mafia in our court system – permitting Erwin to remain free for a year after a guilty verdict.”

But despite his threats that the FPI would detain Erwin and raid his house, Awit said his group was not usurping the role of legal authorities.

“We are here protesting because the system is not functioning in Indonesia,” he said. Terror suspect “Abu Bakar Bashir has been declared a suspect and police took him away. Erwin is guilty but he is still free,” Awit said.

The Independent Journalists Alliance (AJI) said the FPI’s targeting of Erwin was “terror against the press.”

In a press release, the group said: “AJI urges all mass organizations not to take the law into their own hands because they have no authority or right to do so.”

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