View Point: When prosecution becomes persecution

Julia Suryakusuma, Jakarta | Thu, 04/21/2011 9:46 AM | Opinion

First we had Ariel “Peterporn”, then something even better. Yep, “politico-porn”, courtesy of Arifinto, former member of the House of Representatives (DPR).

Huh! Some representation!

Arifinto was the latest person to be involved in a spate of alleged corruption and sex scandals involving Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) lawmakers. His case ended with vows of repentance and his resignation on 12 April 2011, one day after he was caught watching porn on a tablet under a table in the DPR.

Everyone knows sex scandals often lead to the downfall of politicians or public figures. Arifinto’s fall was all his own work, but sometimes these scandals can be manufactured to bring prominent people down. It’s an old trick, but a very effective one.

And that’s what seems to be happening to Anand Krishna. A renowned spiritual leader, head of the Anand Ashram and author of more than 130 books, Anand has been accused of sexual harassment by two former female students.

Early last year, one of them pressed charges against Anand. His supporters have said the women were attention-seekers, and worse, that the sexual harassment case was just an excuse to nail Anand for a bigger “crime”: religious difference.

Strangely, this was confirmed by the accuser’s lawyer Agung Mattauch himself: “Harassment is just an entry point for a more serious problem, religious blasphemy”.

The trial has been ongoing since Aug. 25 last year but so far it’s going nowhere. People have been questioning why, since Anand has complied with all the court’s conditions.

The accuser claims she was hypnotized and brainwashed by Anand to comply with his every wish, including sexual ones (short of intercourse, she admits).

The accuser also claimed she had repressed the memory of the alleged harassment, and by undergoing hypnotherapy was able to recall the events.

However, there’s a problem here, because repressed memory theory is highly controversial, and is now widely discredited as unreliable. Should it be used as evidence in a court case?

The judges, however, have already made remarks suggesting Anand was guilty, even though the trial remains ongoing. Noted human rights lawyer Adnan Buyung Nasution (who’s practiced law for 50 years) was aghast.

“This is the first time I have ever seen anything like this… a judge who pronounces a defendant guilty before he delivers the official verdict of court.”

It gets worse. Anand was arrested and jailed on March 9. Desperate, he embarked on a hunger strike. After 44 days nothing has been done about this, so he’s now starving to death. He may not even make it to the verdict.

In today’s Indonesia, where the persecution of religious minorities is fast becoming a spectator sport, many Islamist “hard-liners” dislike Anand and feel threatened by his teachings. After all, he teaches universal love, peace, spiritualism, health and healing — ideas that are the total opposite of their fixation on religious fanaticism, sectarianism, bigotry, hatred and violence.

Anand is also popular and successful. In the last 19 years he’s spoken to millions through TV, radio, print media, in-house trainings, and, of course, meetings and courses at his Anand Ashram in Jakarta, and the three other meditation centers in Bogor, Bali and Yogyakarta.

His message of universal love and peace has appealed to many Muslims, especially from the middle and upper classes. And that’s haram and polytheistic says the Islamic Umat Movement of Indonesia (GUII), whose membership consists largely of former thugs.

On top of all these unforgivable “crimes”, Anand also made a speech in 2008 against the Anti-Pornography Bill before it was passed. You’ll remember it was passed into law in October of that year in the face of widespread opposition, including from many Muslims. Anand’s speech didn’t do much to help his popularity rating with the hard-liners.

Isn’t it strange that most of the questioning in court related more to Anand’s teachings rather than the sexual harassment claims? Hmm … The trial couldn’t possibly be an excuse to bring him down because his spiritual ideas are different — could it?

Anand is being subjected to another trial outside the court as well… by the media. From the start, it was a case of “guilty until proven innocent” as the headlines show: “Anand Krishna’s Victim Testifies”, “Interview with X, Victim of Anand Krishna’s Obscene Act”, and “Uncovering Anand Krishna’s Deviance”.

In many other countries, newspapers are banned from mentioning the names of people facing serious allegations until they are convicted, to ensure they get a fair trial. But here our media is making people’s suffering into entertainment, confusing salacious speculation with news, in true kampong gossip style. Hey, where’s the Press Council in all this?

And where’s the Judicial Commission too? After much delay, they finally had a look at the case of Antasari Azhar, the former Corruption Eradication Commission head, finding indications that the judges in Antasari’s trial ignored important evidence and testimony that might have cleared him of murder charges.

Maybe they’ll have a go at Anand’s case some time too — although by then he could be dead. In the meantime, Anand’s character has been well and truly assassinated (not that either kind of death ever bothers our authorities much).

Whatever he did or didn’t do, Anand is in deep trouble because he has unconventional spiritual views, and it looks like he’s being bullied to death for them.

But remember, we are all ultimately minorities of one, and his fate is also ours. So when are we going to stop letting the religious bullies have their way?

The writer ( is the author of Jihad Julia

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