The Strange Case of Anand Krishna
Indonesian Supreme Court Throws Out Innocent Verdict for Spiritualist Anand Krishna, Sentencing Him to 2.5 Years of Prison
On November 22, 2011, following a trial that lasted nearly two years – prolific author, spiritual guru and front-line proponent in creating a pluralistic Indonesian society – Anand Krishna was found innocent in a South Jakarta Court of all criminal charges laid against him.
That trial, largely unprecedented in the annals of Indonesian jurisprudence, saw the State present a disjointed case in which the writings and teachings of Krishna urging religious tolerance and pluralism received more attention by the Court than evidence connected to the actual charges laid by a former female follower who said she had been sexually otraged by the spiritual guru.
The drama and intense media attention accompanying the trial intensified during a 49-day hunger strike initiated by Krishna and, later, the removal of presiding judge Hari Sasangka for fraternization with one of the prosecution’s main witnesses.
With the trial process largely in tatters, highly respected and fiercely independent jurists Albertina Ho was assigned to continue and finish the trial. Reviewing the evidence and recalling key witnesses, Judge Ho wasted little time ruling the evidence preented by the prosecution was totally inadequate to support the criminal charges against Anand Krishna. Judge Ho acquitted Krishna of all charges and ordering a full restoration of his civil rights.
Unhappy with the acquittal and in seeming disregard for Section 244 of the Indonesian Criminal Code (KUHP), prosecutors appealed Krishna’s acquittal to the Indonesian Supreme Court.
KUHP 244 stipulates that appeals cannot be brought to the Supreme Court when the defendant has been freed and declared innocent by the lower court.
Shortly after acquitting Krishna and following her fearless handling of politically charged cases involving tax manipulation by Gayus Tambunan and disgraced prosecutor Cirus Sinaga, Judge Ho was summarily reassigned to a backwater community on Bangka island.
Undeterred and taking legal refuge under a Minister of Justice 1983 decree that declared acquittals by a lower court could be challenged in the Supreme Court for reasons of “condition, law, justice and correctness,” prosecutors appealed Krishna’s innocent verdict to the Supreme Court. In taking the position that a Ministerial Decree has greater legal weight than a formalized law, three judges ruled in late July 2012 that Justice Ho had erred in her absolute acquittal of Anand Krishna, concluding that he was in fact guilty of sexual molestation of a student or a person under his supervision in accordance with Indonesian criminal code (KUHP 294).
In reversing the acquittal, the three judges also imposed a prison sentence of 2.5 years to be served by Anand Krishna.
Alarmed and outraged by his reversal of legal fortune, Anand Krishna, via his son Prashant Gangtani, has questioned the independence and objectivity of the Supreme Court’s handling of the case. Krishna’s supporters have declared their intent to seek judicial review of the decision by international courts and non-governmental agencies dealing with judicial abuse.
“I realize that taking these steps will embarrass the Supreme Court, but I will defend my father for the sake of truth and legal certainty in our country. I will bring this case to the International Criminal Court,” Prashant told Detik.com.
Joining a growing chorus protesting the Supreme Court’s decision,
Former Indonesian Minister for Research and Technology, Prof. Dr. Muhammad A.S. Hikam also expressed his concerns on Twitter via @mashikam expressing his “100% support” of Anand Krishna and challenging the legality of any acquittal being reviewed by the Supreme Court as a violation of KUHP 244.
Also protesting the Courts decision is the Humanitad Foundation (humanitad.org) – an international non-governmental, non-profit, self-funding organization dedicated to the promotion of interfaith and intercultural tolerance and fellowship.
The founder of Humanitad, Sacha Stone, issued a written statement saying: “It is a cruel irony that this good and caring man should be the victim of a miscarriage of justice in his homeland, the scale of which is presently unparalleled by any other judicial body in the democratic world.’
Adding: “When the rule of law is undermined, and when the integrity of those responsible for upholding the rule of law is compromised, it is the responsibility of all free people to stand up if our most sacred freedoms are to be preserved. A fair and public hearing, by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of a criminal charge, is a fundamental right of every human being on this planet. In the present case it is clear that no man of good will would consider the Supreme Court ruling against Anand Krishna to be either fair, public, independent or impartial.”
Separately, Anand Krishna has vowed to fight the Supreme Court decision to imprison him by every means possible in order that no other Indonesian citizen’s civil rights are similarly disregarded by the courts in the future.
Anand Krishna maintains religous and meditation centers in a number of Indonesian locales, including Bali.