By Konradus Epa
Church and rights groups have condemned a court’s decision to hand Muslim extremists light sentences for a vicious mob attack in which three sect members died.
Three Ahmadiyah followers were beaten and stoned to death and at least five others injured on February 6, when over 1,000 people attacked about 20 worshippers at a house in Umbulan village in Pandeglang district, Banten province.
Ahmadiyah, unlike orthodox Muslims, do not believe Mohammed was the last prophet and are looked upon as heretics.
At the end of their trial at the Serang District Court yesterday, 12 defendants found guilty of having played major roles in the attacks, were handed sentences of between five and seven months.
“The light sentences not only threaten minority groups but also the very principles enshrined in the constitution that the vast majority of Indonesians hold dear,” said Father Antonius Benny Susetyo, the executive secretary of the bishops’ Commission for Ecumenical and Inter-religious Affairs.
These “unfair sentences” were given to those committing violence. “The crimes happened because law enforcement officers were afraid of a mob. The result is that extremism has been encouraged,” he said.
Hendardi, executive director of the Institute for Democracy and Peace (Setara), said authorities did not take the severity of the crime seriously.
“The light sentences demonstrate how important this crime was regarded, from beginning to end,” he said in a statement issued yesterday.
By handing down these sentences, the court failed to do its job to protect the people, he said.
“In a clear case of religious-based violence, the courts in Indonesia failed to mete justice,” he asserted.