Twelve members of a mob that set upon adherents of an Islamic sect, killing three of them, received sentences of three to six months in jail on Thursday. Rights advocates criticized the ruling as an example of growing impunity for violence against religious minorities in Indonesia.
In a heavily guarded court in Banten Province in western Java, the 12 defendants were found guilty of taking part in a clash between a crowd of more than 1,000 villagers and a handful of members of Ahmadiyya, an Islamic sect that mainstream Muslim clerics here say is heretical. The attack took place in Cikeusik, a remote village, in February.
A video of the attack that was posted online afterward provoked outrage in Indonesia and abroad. It showed police officers standing by as the villagers descended on a house where a number of Ahmadis were staying, beating several men and mutilating the bodies of the dead.
Human rights groups have been critical of the apparent reluctance of law enforcement officials to punish members of the mob. Prosecutors did not pursue murder charges, instead charging the 12 with crimes like incitement, assault and torture. They sought sentences of five to seven months, and the judges in the case chose even lighter sentences, saying that the Ahmadiyya adherents had caused the episode. - New York Times
The State Department has growth of the middle class in the nation is encouraging, incidents like this illustrate that the attitude toward religious minorities is not improving, and may in fact be worsening. While Indonesia "has a long history of religious tolerance," as the AP notes, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has been under pressure from Islamists for some time to ban the Ahmadiyya sect entirely. Whether he bows to that pressure remains to be seen.