Two Irish Senators support Alexander Aan in Indonesian blasphemy case

Following a briefing of politicians by Atheist Ireland on Tuesday, two Irish Senators have asked the Irish Government to support Alexander Aan, the indonesian civil servant who is facing blasphemy charges for writing on Facebook that God does not exist.

Speaking in the Seanad this Thursday, Senators Jillian van Turnhout and Ivana Bacik both asked Eamon Gilmore, who is Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, to take a strong line in support of Alexander.

Atheist Ireland thanks both Senators for their quick response to this case. We also thank Senator Ivana Bacik for her request in the Seanad on Wednesday for a full debate on the Irish blasphemy law and its national and international impact.

Senator Jillian van Turnhout:

I welcome the Tánaiste’s commitment to Internet freedom through his work as chair of the OSCE. It is on this note that I draw his attention to the recent arrest of a 31 year old Indonesian civil servant, whose name I will supply to the Tánaiste separately, for having questioned the existence of God on his Facebook profile page. He has been charged under Indonesian law prohibiting blasphemy and faces five years imprisonment if found guilty.

The reason I raise this case with the Tánaiste is that Indonesia is one of a number of Islamic states that has cited Irish blasphemy legislation in support and defence of its own. Irish blasphemy law was cited as an authority in support of Indonesia’s constitutional court decision to uphold its law prohibiting blasphemy in 2010.

While I fully support the repeal of this law, I do not believe the intention of the blasphemy legislation introduced by Mr. Dermot Ahern in 2009 was to infringe upon the rights to freedom of expression, religion, belief and conscience in Ireland. Nor do I think it is a desirable consequence that our law is being used to support such infringements, including against Christian religions in Islamic countries anywhere else in the world.

I consider this as much a foreign affairs concern as a domestic concern. I welcome that this law is up for review in the programme for Government.

Senator Ivana Bacik:

I would like to echo Senator van Turnhout in urging the Tánaiste to take a strong line in support of the Indonesian civil servant she mentioned. We need to examine our blasphemy law because it is clearly having a repressive effect in Indonesia, Pakistan and other countries. I know the matter will be reviewed as part of the constitutional convention, but I believe the law should be repealed. Perhaps progress can be made more quickly in this regard.

Here is the Seanad transcript of the above contributions and here is Senator Bacik’s request the previous day for a full debate on the Irish blasphemy law. Atheist Ireland asks everybody who reads this to contact your local politicians, your local Indonesian embassy, and the Indonesian Government to call for the immediate release of Alexander Aan.


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