Witnesses Defend American Blasphemer

Witnesses testifying in the blasphemy trial of an American national on Monday said he would never have insulted Islam, and that the case had been blown out of proportion by “provocateurs.”

Gregory Lloyd Luke, 64, is standing trial at the Praya District Court in Central Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara.

Luke was involved in an incident on Aug. 22 in which he is alleged to have stormed into a prayer room, or musholla, near his house in Kuta village, turned down the volume on its speakers and insulted Islam.

The American was then attacked by a mob and his home ransacked.

No one has been arrested for the attack on Luke or his house, which caused an estimated Rp 200 million ($22,500) in damages.

On Monday, Luke’s adopted son, Lalu Sungkul, told the court that his father would never have insulted Islam.

“He’s a Muslim and he’d never blaspheme or stomp all over the Koran like they allege,” he said.

“What happened was that there was a provocateur at the scene who claimed he did that, and that’s what riled up the mob.”

Lalu said that shortly after the incident at the prayer room and the ransacking of Luke’s home, residents had met with officials from the Central Lombok administration, the local police and the military and promised to drop the case if Luke agreed to build them a new musholla.

“The signed agreement is currently being held by the Central Lombok Police chief,” he said. “The point is, the residents have all agreed to drop the case on that condition, if Luke agrees.”

The other witness who testified on Monday was Fitriani, the younger sister of Luke’s former wife, Nafsanah.

She said she had never known Luke to be a violent or angry person, and added that she had been surprised to hear that he had been caught up in a criminal case of blasphemy.

For as long as he has lived in Kuta village, she said, Luke has always been a model Muslim.

“I often saw him praying throughout the day, and every Friday he’d attend prayers at the mosque with the other men,” she said. “So it’s highly unlikely he would ever have insulted Islam the way they say he did.”

She also told the court that Luke had been actively involved in philanthropic activities in the village, including handing out alms to the poor every Idul Fitri.

Fitriani said Luke had also paid for her education as well as child support to his ex-wife.

Monday’s hearing was the fourth in the trial, which resumes next week.

Luke faces three counts of blasphemy and disorderly conduct. If convicted on all three counts, he could face a maximum of five years in prison.

He has strenuously denied the charges, saying he was assaulted without ever having set foot in the musholla.

An acquaintance had previously testified that Luke’s grasp of Indonesian was too poor to have made the offensive remarks attributed to him by villagers.

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