Indonesian rock star stands trial over web sex videos

BANDUNG, Indonesia, Nov 22, 2010 (AFP) - An Indonesian rock star went on trial Monday charged with distributing two homemade sex videos on the Internet, in a case that has shocked and fascinated the country in equal measure.

Nazril Ariel, 29, appeared at the closed-door trial in Bandung district court, West Java province, facing criminal charges including those filed under a 2008 anti-pornography law, prosecutor Rusmanto told reporters.

More than 500 police were on hand to ensure security, while adoring Ariel fans -- mostly young women -- mixed with radical Islamists outside the court, illustrating the yawning cultural divide the case has opened in Indonesia.

"There are so many cases like this, why are they freed and not Ariel? Is it because he's famous? We want justice," 22-year-old waitress Ruri Astari told AFP, as around 20 fans sang Ariel's hits and carried "Free Ariel" banners.

Islamic hardliner Hirman Firdaus said the hard-living rock'n'roll singer was a threat to society and deserved the maximum punishment.

"I want him to be severely punished. This is immoral," he said.

If convicted Ariel could face 12 years in jail and fines of up to six billion rupiah (672,000 dollars) for offences including distributing pornography on the Internet.

"Ariel helped to provide facilities to distribute the pornographic videos," Rusmanto said.

The singer looked relaxed in a grey shirt and black trousers as he spoke to reporters from behind bars in the court lockup.

"I've read the charges. I'm ready to face anything," he said.

He has been behind bars since he surrendered to police on June 22 amid a media circus over the explicit videos, which showed him having sex separately with two television celebrities, Luna Maya, 27, and Cut Tari, 33.

Maya remains his girlfriend and was at the court on Monday.

Neither Maya nor Tari has been charged with any offence, although Islamist hardliners have called for Tari -- who is married -- to be stoned to death for adultery.

Both women have lost lucrative marketing deals as a result of the scandal.

The clips have been viewed by hundreds of thousands of people online and sparked fears about a wave of licentiousness and immorality spreading among the mainly Muslim country's youths through the Internet.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, an ex-general aged 61, was moved to warn that the nation of 240 million people was at risk of being "crushed by the information-technology frenzy".

Dubbed "Peterporn" after Ariel's band Peterpan, the scandal also fuelled efforts to purge the Internet of pornography.

Web usage has taken off among Indonesia's upwardly mobile urban youth, who have come from nowhere to rank among the world's biggest users of social media sites over the past five years.

The trial is taking place in closed hearings to protect the public from the "inappropriate" sexual nature of the subject matter, according to the judge.

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