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31 Jan 2011

A court in Indonesia has sentenced one of south-east Asia's best known pop stars to three-and-a-half years in prison for making and distributing sex videos on the internet.

The tapes of Nazril Irham, or Ariel as he is known, and two other celebrities, were made public last June.

He is the first celebrity to be charged under Indonesia's strict pornography law that came into effect in 2008.

Ariel denied distributing the videos, saying they had been stolen.

Ariel had made three sex videos featuring him and separately, two female celebrities.

The 29-year-old was found guilty of "giving an opportunity for others to spread, produce and prepare a pornographic video", according to the verdict.

"As a public figure, the defendant should be aware that fans might imitate his behaviour," said Judge Singgih Budi Prakoso.

He said that Ariel had done nothing to prevent the wide distribution of the videos.
Cultural divide

Ariel was speechless on hearing the verdict, and his teenage fans who filled the court room broke down in tears, says the BBC's Alice Budisatrijo, who was at the court in Bandung.

The singer's lawyer said he would appeal against the sentence and criticised the judges' admission that they were influenced by public pressure.

Outside the court, hundreds of protesters had gathered calling for a harsher punishment.

The charge carried a maximum 12-year sentence and a fine of more than $600,000 (£403,000).

The trial has become a target for protests by hardline Muslim groups who have adopted pornography as a banner issue, claiming it symbolises what they have called the nation's moral decline.

The Blackberry telephone provider, Research In Motion (RIM), has also been asked by the government to prevent pornographic content from being made available through their devices if they wish to maintain distribution in Indonesia.

The case has exposed the deep cultural divide in the country, our correspondent says.

Indonesia is a secular state with a long tradition of tolerance, but with more democracy in the past decade, Muslim political groups have tested their strength through morality and corruption campaigns.


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