The Downfall of a Pop Star: Ariel Becomes a Victim of Fame
Heru Andriyanto & Yuli Krisna
Moments before stepping into the courtroom on Monday, Nazril “Ariel” Irham expressed hope that he would walk out a free man.
“I want to be free. I hope so much that I will be acquitted,” the pop star said, his girlfriend, the presenter Luna Maya, by his side.
Minutes later, seated in the middle of the courtroom surrounded by media and other spectators, he grabbed his hair in an act of frustration and anguish as the judges at the Bandung District Court read their verdict: He was guilty of violating the law when he helped “give other people the opportunity to spread, make and provide pornography.” They sentenced him to three and a half years in jail, and fined him Rp 250 million ($28,000).
Given the intense media coverage and controversy surrounding the celebrity scandal, and how police and prosecutors seemed to have left no legal stone unturned in their quest to charge Ariel, the verdict was hardly surprising.
When the singer was arrested on June 22, a few weeks after three sex videos that appeared to show him with Luna and a former girlfriend, Cut Tari, also a presenter, began circulating online, police charged him with indecency.
However, over the next few months, the case moved back and forth between the police and the Attorney General’s Office.
The problems, most observers believed, was that officials couldn’t find an appropriate article in the Criminal Code with which to charge Ariel.
Article 284 of the Criminal Code states that extramarital affairs are “a crime by accusation,” meaning they can be prosecuted only if the affected spouse files a complaint with the police.
Cut Tari is married but her husband, Johannes Yusuf Subrata, never officially reported the incident to police.
The Criminal Code also says that premarital sex is not a crime — unless it is incestuous, involves a minor or involves violence or force. None of these conditions were present in the videos.
It was four months before the AGO finally charged Ariel under Article 29 of the 2008 Anti-Pornography Law, the 2008 Information and Electronic Transaction Law (ITE), Article 56 of the Criminal Code for “participating in a crime” and an obscure emergency law passed more than a half-century ago.
The 1951 law states that if an act is considered a crime but cannot be shown to be a crime according to existing laws and the Criminal Code, then hukum adat , or customary law, is applicable.
Under the ITE Law, those convicted of distributing pornography can be jailed for up to six years, while the Anti-Pornography Law stipulates a maximum sentence of 16 years.
A spokesman for the AGO, Babul Khoir Harahap, insisted that the prosecution had a sound case against the singer.
“A witness account confirmed that Ariel played a role in the distribution of the sex videos, and from this perspective we do have a case,” he said.
The police and prosecutors’ relentless drive to charge Ariel, as well as the resulting sentence, may have partly been driven by the scale of the scandal.
From the time the sex tapes emerged, protests by hard-line groups and antipornography activists against the three celebrities have been regular occurrences. Child rights activists even accused the three of being responsible for a spike in rape cases.
It didn’t help Ariel that his band, Peterpan, was among the country’s highest paid, making around Rp 90 million ($9,990) per show. Cut Tari is a former model and host of the gossip show “Insert,” and Luna is the former face of Lux soap and a one-time presenter on a popular music show.
The presiding judge at Ariel’s case, Singgih Budi Prakoso, said that Ariel’s celebrity status was one of the factors considered in the sentencing. “He has a lot of fans, mostly teenagers, who we fear might imitate his crime,” the judge said.
Ariel’s attorney, Otto Cornelis Kaligis, said he would appeal the verdict, which he said was driven by public opinion. “Justice should never be made based on public opinion.”