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Indonesian Playboy Magazine Editor Acquitted

An Indonesian court has tossed out charges that Playboy Indonesia's editor-in-chief had violated indecency laws. Chad Bouchard reports from Jakarta on the case, which has angered many strict Muslims.

A judge in the Jakarta court told prosecutors they had failed to take into account the country's laws protecting free speech.

The judge ruled that Playboy Indonesia editor Erwin Arnada had been improperly arrested and charged with violating indecency laws. As a result, he was freed.

The decision has angered some strict Muslim groups, which have pushed for an expanded legal definition of pornography and stronger laws against it.

Outside the courtroom, about 200 protesters faced police armed with water cannons, but the demonstration remained peaceful.

Arnada faced up to 32 months in jail if convicted.

Hendrayana, director of the Press Legal Aid Center in Jakarta, says the verdict is critical for media freedom in Indonesia. He says the since the country's reformation in the late 1990s, members of the press have been searching for the best way to gather and distribute information to citizens, a job they should be able to do it without restrictions or intervention from the government.

Since Indonesia moved from dictatorship to democracy over the past nine years, some conservative Muslim groups have pushed for stricter morality laws.

Azizah Aziz is a law specialist for Nahdlatul Ulama, an Islamic group in Indonesia with 30 million members. She says the decision is a big disappointment.

Aziz says decisions like this are hard for members of the group to accept, because they are very contradictory. It fails to take the people's side, she says, and fails to protect women from exploitation.

A lawyer representing Muslim groups vowed to seek new charges against Arnada.

Though the Indonesian version of Playboy contains no nudity, the magazine's first edition sparked protests in April 2006. The magazine's central office was moved to the island of Bali, where most of the population is Hindu, following attacks on its Jakarta office.