07/29/2011, 00.00
INDONESIA
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Light sentences for Muslim extremists who attacked Ahmadis

by Mathias Hariyadi
Twelve defendants are given sentences ranging between three and six months in jail. In February, they took part in an attack against members of a religious minority that left three people dead. In the country, the courts’ failure to meet out justice has turned into a major controversy. Human rights activist warns that similar episodes are bound to happen in the future.
Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Indonesia’s justice system is once again criticised for failing to impose lengthy sentences on people responsible for sectarian violence and crimes against minorities. The latest example came yesterday when a District Court in Serang, Banten Province (Java), handed down lenient sentences against 12 Muslims extremists for their role in a brutal assault against Ahmadi Muslims in February in Cikeusik.

The defendants received sentences of between three and six months in jail, Islamic Lawyer Team (TPM) said. Both the prosecutor and the judges said that Ahmadis (a Muslim group deemed heretical by mainstream Muslims because they do not view Muhammad as the last prophet) “provoked” the assault and so bore some responsibility.

For one of the prosecutors, M Yunis, Ahmadis “systematically provoked riots”. In reality, pressures from Muslim extremists were behind the light sentences.

Human rights activists and members of civil society groups have been outraged by the court’s decision when compared to the gravity of the facts.

On 6 February, a mob of about a thousand extremists attacked a private home where a group of Ahmadis had gathered. When told to leave the premises, they refused. This triggered a brutal reaction from the mob. At the end of the attack, three people lay dead, and dozens were wounded.

Twelve people were indicted for crimes in connection with the attack. However, they were given sentences of just a few months.

“Once again Indonesia has failed to provide justice,” in a case of sectarian violence, said Setara Institute President Hendardi. For him, the victims were deliberately targeted, and the sentences will deter no one in the future.

Asian Human Right Watch’s president Phil Robertson agrees. In his view, similar attacks are likely to happen in the future.

The failure of Indonesia’s justice system to prosecute properly people involved with sectarian violence has been evident on several occasions, especially when Christians are the victims.

In one of the most recent cases, a Muslim leader received a light sentence for a brutal attack against Christians in Temanggung (central Java) (see Mathias Hariyadi, “Central Java, Justice held in check only one year for imam who ordered attack on three churches,” in AsiaNews 18 June 2011).
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