Indonesia’s Supreme Court upheld the conviction and increased the prison term for an environmentalist found guilty of spreading communism during an anti-mining protest last year, his defense attorney said Tuesday.
The Banyuwangi District Court in East Java province in January convicted Hari Budiawan (alias Budi Pego) of spreading the outlawed teachings of Marxism and Leninism by waving a hammer-and-sickle flag during an anti-mining protest in April 2017.
Budi, 38, has maintained there were no pro-Communist banners at the protest.
The East Java high court upheld Budi’s 10-month sentence in March, but the Supreme Court increased the prison term to four years in an Oct. 16 decision that was not made public at the time. Budi was notified of the Supreme Court’s verdict by mail on Nov. 16, defense lawyer Hari Kurniawan said.
“We regret the decision,” Hari told BenarNews, adding that he likely would seek a case review for Budi, who is not in jail.
Supreme Court spokesman Suhadi told BenarNews the judges reached the decision independently.
“The public has the right to judge its fairness. But the judges’ decision must be respected,” Suhadi said.
Communism has been outlawed in the nation since the mid-1960s, after a failed coup blamed on the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) led to nationwide killings that targeted suspected PKI members in 1965 and 1966.
Budi and other residents protested against a gold mine operated by PT Bumi Suksesindo, saying it caused mudflows that polluted the coastal area.
He has described the charges against him as fabricated.
“The police and members of the TNI (Indonesian National Army) were aware of all our banners, because they were there when we made and installed them,” he said at the time of his arrest. “They even photographed every banner we wrote.”
Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation activist Asfinawati, who uses one name, expressed concerns about the decision.
“This is a real threat to the protection of human rights in Indonesia, especially for people who want to participate in the protection of the environment,” she told BenarNews.
It was not the first time the Supreme Court has increased a prison term or overturned a not-guilty verdict following an appeal.
In a recent case that has sparked public outrage, the court sentenced to six months a teacher who made public a recording of her school’s principal engaging in a lewd conversation with her.
The top court overturned a lower court ruling that cleared the teacher, Baiq Nuril, of defamation charges and ordered her to pay a fine of 500 million rupiah (U.S. $34,000), or spend an additional three months in jail.
Nuril was found guilty of distributing or transmitting content that violates morality as stipulated in the Information and Electronic Transaction Law.