Indonesian Pop Singer Gets 3.5 Years for Sexy Pix

An Indonesian court found a popular singer guilty Monday of distributing sexually explicit materials showing himself and two women on the Internet and sentenced him to three and a half years in prison.

The sentencing of Nazril "Ariel" Irham of the Peterpan singing group took place amid an ugly scene in which as many as 1,000 demonstrators from the Alliance of Islamic Movements threw rotten eggs and tomatoes at the pop singer. The Alliance had promised 10,000 demonstrators but apparently wasn't able to produce them.

The sentence, which includes a Rp250 million fine ($28,000), is a year and a half less than the prosecution demanded. Prior to the sentencing, Ariel's lawyer, OC Kaligis, said he was worried about the security if the singer had been acquitted.

"If he is acquitted, I'm afraid the demonstrators would set the court on fire," Kaligis said.

The outrage and the sentencing present an interesting contrast to the case of Indonesia's infamous tax official, Gayus Tambunan, who last week got just seven years in jail and a US$33,150 fine after allegedly turning a blind eye to tax evasion by as many as 149 companies including three controlled by Aburizal Bakrie, one of the country's richest men and the head of the Golkar political party. The three Bakrie companies alone are suspected of evading as much as US$1 billion in taxes.

Tambunan bribed his way out of jail 68 times to go on trips to Malaysia, Bali and Singapore before being caught by a photographer at a Bali tennis match. The court, which tried him on a narrow series of charges, cited mitigating factors including the fact that he had never been convicted --although he bribed his way out of previous charges – reportedly has little children who need his care, and is still young and is expected to change his attitude after serving his sentence.

Nazril has been behind bars since he surrendered himself to police on June 22 amid a media circus over explicit videos that allegedly showed him having sex, on separate occasions, with television celebrities Luna Maya, his current girlfriend, and Cut Tari, a former girlfriend.

"We've been guarding the court hearing from start to finish. This is the moment for upholding the law in this country, If Ariel Peterpan, the sex video perpetrator is freed, we will take action," the rally orator shouted in front of the court building.

The Bandung Police Headquarters deployed 1,000 officers to secure the hearing which was open to the public. The courtroom, on the building's second floor, was jam packed with Peterpan's fans, Ariel's friends, demonstrators and journalists.

The actress Luna Maya, Nazril's girlfriend, attended the hearing accompanied by a group of Indonesian artists including legendary singer and song writer Titiek Puspa, rock star Achmad Albar and musician Melly Goeslaw. Luna gave her boyfriend a long embrace before he was escorted into the court room.

Speaking to the reporters ahead of the hearing, Nazril said he hoped the judge would acquit him.

"I want to be free, I hope so much that I will be acquitted," he said. None of his family members was present at the court. "My family supports me with prayers but it's better for them not to be here. I'm afraid for their safety. You saw how situation in front of the court," the singer said.

"It is now official, we are under the law of Islamic thugs and low-lifes," said a reader in a comment posted on the Jakarta Globe website. "I am disgusted with the gutless law, and I am disgusted with my country and what it has become. I am disgusted with myself and every fellow Indonesian, because we have stood by, and watched, and allowed our nation be hijacked by the corrupt elite, and the barbaric Islamic extremists. This is now anarchy."

With reporting from the Jakarta Globe