Saturday, February 23, 2013

Two Bahai political prisoners in Lampung

Human Rights Watch, 23 February 2013

Syahroni and Iwan Purwanto sit inside the Sukadana prison 
in Lampung, Sumatra Island.

In Sukadana, a small town in Lampung province, Sumatra, a court convicted two Baha’i members, Syahroni and Iwan Purwanto, of “trying to convert” Muslim children to the Baha’i faith. The East Lampung district court in November 2010 sentenced the two men to five years in prison. They appealed but the Lampung high court reinstated the district court verdict in January 2011. The defendants have appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court.

According to court documents, in April 2010, Riza Fadilla’s Baha’i uncle, Iwan Purwanto, asked his nephew to tutor his seven-year-old son. The nephew agreed to tutor him, and the class eventually grew to include another Baha’i boy and 14 Muslim children, mostly of primary school age, as well as three other tutors, including a Muslim teenager. The group studied on Sundays on the second floor of a shop house in the Sidorejo market, Sekampung Udik district, belonging to local Baha’i leader Syahroni.

Syahroni and Iwan Purwanto were accused of attempting to covert Muslim children to the Baha’i faith. Eventually, prosecutors charged the two but not under the blasphemy law. Instead, they used article 86 of the 2002 Child Protection Act, which states, “whoever converts or attempts to convert children to other religion will be charged up to five years prison or fine of 100 million rupiah or both.” The two men are being detained at Sukadana prison, awaiting their appeal. 


They were sentenced 5.5 years in prison and freed in September 2013 after serving two third of their jail term.