Man faces five years for 'God does not exist' Facebook post

31-year-old Alexander Aan faces up to fives years in prison after he declared himself an atheist on Facebook. The Indonesian man is in protective police custody because he fears physical assault.

31-year-old Alexander Aan faces a maximum prison sentence of five years for posting "God does not exist" on Facebook. The civil servant was attacked and beaten by an angry mob of dozens who entered his government office at the Dharmasraya Development Planning Board on Wednesday. The Indonesian man was taken into protective police custody Friday since he was afraid of further physical assault.

The posting was made on a Facebook Page titled Ateis Minang (Minang Atheist), which Aan created. At the time of writing, it had over 1,700 Likes. Aan's posting has been removed, but supporters on the Page are urging police to release him.

Dharmasraya Police Chief Sr. Comr. Chairul Aziz said the district branch of the council and other Islamic organizations believed Aan had defiled Islam by using passages from the Koran to denounce the existence of God and highlight his atheist views. "So it meets the criteria of tainting religion, in this case Islam," Chairul told The Jakarta Globe.

On Facebook, Aan said he was brought up as a Muslim. In 2008, however, he came to the conclusion that God could not exist. In addition to his comment about the possibility of a deity, he also declared that he did not believe in angels, devils, heaven, hell, as well as other "myths." He was aware he could lose his job and was prepared to do so to defend his beliefs.

Atheism is a violation of Indonesian law under the founding principles of the country. Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, recognises the right to practice six religions in total: Islam, Protestant, Catholic, Hindu, Buddhism and Confucianism. Atheism is, however, illegal. According to Indonesian criminal law, anyone who tries to stop others believing in a faith could face up to five years in jail for blasphemy.

Aan was charged because he used Facebook to spread beliefs that violate the law. Furthermore, it was pointed out he lied on his job application by saying he was Muslim. Aan asked police investigators: if God really exists and has absolute power, why doesn't God prevent bad things from happening in this world?

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