Indonesian police name newspaper editor suspect in anti-Islam blasphemy case

Indonesian police named the editor-in-chief of The Jakarta Post as a suspect in a blasphemy case, after the newspaper published a political cartoon mocking ISIS terrorists.

Witness testimony and evidence led police to name the newspaper’s editor, Meidyatama Suryodiningrat, 47, as a suspect, for his responsibility overseeing the English-language paper, a Jakarta police spokesman identified only as Col. Rikwanto told reporters Thursday.

Suryodiningrat’s been summoned for questioning next week.

The cartoon-- published July 3-- showed an ISIS flag replaced with a skull and crossbones, and Islamic sacred phrases in Arabic, including “La ilaha Illallah,” meaning “there is none worthy of worship except Allah,” and “Allah, Mohamed and Apostle,” the South China Morning Post reported.

A Muslim group called Jakarta Preachers’ Corps alerted police to the case after The Jakarta Post issued an apology about the internationally syndicated cartoon and printed a retraction from its website and print edition.

Suryodiningrat faces five years in prison for blasphemy against a religion under the criminal code. He issued a statement Thursday, saying the newspaper did not commit a criminal act.

“What we produced was a journalistic piece that criticized the ISIS movement, which has carried out violence in the name of religion,” the statement said.

“It means that the ISIS caricature was not blasphemous,” Suryodiningrat  said. “We all know that ISIS is an organization that is banned in Indonesia and across almost the entire world.”

The Jakarta-based Alliance of Independent Journalists, or AJI, objected to the declaration of Suryodiningrat as suspect.

“We urge the police not to use the criminal code to deal with journalistic cases, but the press law to solve disputes related to news reports and press products,” AJI said, according to the South China Morning Post.

The case, according to AJI, was a “serious threat” to freedom of the press.

Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation and its constitution guarantees freedom of speech. In recent years blasphemy cases have been filed against those seen as offending Islam.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.