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Playboy Indonesia ex-editor is freed

Associated Press / June 25, 2011

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JAKARTA, Indonesia — Playboy Indonesia’s former editor was released from prison yesterday after the country’s top court overturned his indecency conviction for publishing pictures of scantily clad women.

The long-running case has highlighted the growing militancy of a vocal fringe wanting Islamic-based laws implemented in Indonesia, a moderate democracy that is the world’s most populous Muslim nation.

Erwin Arnada, 48, who had been editor of the now-defunct magazine, was serving a two-year prison sentence after a protracted legal battle that began in 2006 and saw him imprisoned last October when a lower court’s acquittal was overturned.

“This is part of the history of the struggle for freedom of the press,’’ Arnada said as he left Cipinang prison in Jakarta yesterday afternoon wearing a T-shirt that said “Journalism is not a crime.’’

His lawyer, Heriyanto Yang, said a judicial review panel of the Supreme Court decided late last month to reverse the court’s earlier conviction. Bureaucratic delays in such decisions being announced are not uncommon in Indonesia.

When Playboy Indonesia hit newsstands in 2006, members of the hard-line Islamic Defenders Front attacked its editorial offices and filed a criminal complaint against Arnada.

The trial, however, angered free speech activists, and Indonesia’s Press Council defended the magazine, saying it did not contain pornography or violate media laws.

Toned down for the local market, Playboy Indonesia had photos of women in undergarments, occasionally with partially exposed breasts. But the pictures were less risqué than some appearing in other magazines sold openly on street corners.

The New York-based Committee To Protect Journalists criticized Arnada’s imprisonment.

“The jailing of Erwin Arnada in a high-security prison was politically motivated and should never have happened,’’ the group said in a statement.

Arnada was previously acquitted by a district court in 2007, but the Supreme Court convicted him last year on an appeal from prosecutors. It ruled that Arnada had violated indecency provisions in the criminal code.

His lawyers then requested a judicial review as Arnada began his sentence.

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