Indonesia jails pop star over Internet sex tape

JAKARTA Mon Jan 31, 2011 3:03am EST

Indonesian pop singer Nazril ''Ariel'' Irham (R) is accompanied by a friend as he waits in a temporary detention cell in Bandung of the Indonesia's West Java province January 31, 2011. REUTERS/Enny Nuraheni

Indonesian pop singer Nazril ''Ariel'' Irham (R) is accompanied by a friend as he waits in a temporary detention cell in Bandung of the Indonesia's West Java province January 31, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Enny Nuraheni

JAKARTA (Reuters) - An Indonesian pop star whose sex tapes with his celebrity girlfriends spread wildly on the internet was jailed on Monday for three and a half years, in a case that led to a wide crackdown on Internet porn in the country.

The trial highlighted a divide between a youthful Indonesia set against censorship on the internet and conservative pressure groups in the world's most populous Muslim country who rallied outside the court demanding a harsher penalty.

Nazril "Ariel" Irham, 30, was jailed under a controversial pornography law, which was passed in 2008 to ban public displays of nudity and behaviour that could incite lust.

"The defendant is legitimately and convincingly guilty of giving chances for others to spread, make and provide pornography," said judge Singgih Budi Prakoso in a west Javan court where 1,000 police tried to control a rowdy crowd.

Police said earlier a friend of Irham's had taken the sex tape off his computer and posted it on the Internet. Irham denied it was him on the tape.

The crowd at the court included teenaged female fans of Irham's band, Peterpan, wearing T-shirts with the word "freedom", and skullcap- and headscarf-wearing members of Islamic groups.

Members of both groups were angered by the verdict. Irham was also fined 250 million rupiah ($27,692).

Under the pornography law, anyone who produces, makes, copies, circulates, broadcasts, offers, trades, loans or provides pornography can be jailed for between six months and 12 years and can be fined up to six billion rupiah ($665,900).

The law was seen by many as a step back in democratic and officially secular Indonesia, where foreign investors are hoping for more openness and pro-market reforms to increase its allure as an emerging market investment destination.

After the Irham case blew up, Communications and Information Minister Tifatul Sembiring, of the Islamic PKS party, called for tighter internet controls, including requiring providers to stop access to pornography or browsing services could be closed.

Research in Motion, makers of the popular Blackberry telephone and messaging system, said two weeks ago it would comply with the government's order to block access to pornographic sites via its devices.

"What is an issue here is not Ariel, but rights supporters versus morality enforcers. Tough choice: porn star or oppressors?" said political commentator Wimar Witoelar on Twitter.

(Reporting by Olivia Rondonuwu; Editing by Neil Chatterjee and Robert Birsel)