An Indonesian member of an Islamic minority group has been sentenced to six months in prison although he was defending a fellow Ahmadiyah’s home from an attacking mob of Muslim hardliners.
The attackers, meanwhile, have received lighter sentences, prompting denunciations by human rights groups that officials are encouraging growing religious intolerance in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country.
Deden Sudjana – whose hand was nearly severed by a machete — was wounded when Muslim hard-liners attacked a house he was defending. He is a member of the Ahmadiyah sect, which believes key Islamic prophecies have been fulfilled. They are regarded as heretics by Muslim hardliners.
The Serang District Court said Sudjana was guilty of resisting police orders to leave the scene. He refused since it would have left the house undefended. He is charged with attacking one of the Islamic leaders of the mob, which then killed three members of the Ahmadiyahs.
So far, 12 members of the attackers have been convicted. Their sentences of just three to six months “sent a chilling message,” said Andreas Harsono from Human Rights Watch.
He said the decision to punish a victim will encourage more violence against the Ahmadiyahs and other religious minorities.
Indonesia, a predominantly Muslim and secular nation of 240 million, has a long history of religious tolerance. However, a small, extremist fringe has grown more vocal in recent years and is seeking – with some success – to impose its will on police, the judicial system and the government.
The Jakarta Globe newspaper reported Sujana was accused of triggering the attack by disobeying police orders to leave the scene. He was among 20 Ahmadis who came to protect the home of the group’s local leader.
According to the Jakarta Post, presiding judge Sumartono said Deden was found guilty of physical abuse against the attackers.
The defendant did not obey an order from a police officer who told him to leave the house,” Sumartono said, referring to a testimony from police officer Hasanuddin.
Before the riot began on the morning of February 6, Hasanuddin allegedly told Deden and another 20 Ahmadis to leave their homes in Cikeusik. Deden, however, declined and said he wanted to protect his property.
“The police officer was speaking as a representative of the state. He was the officer in charge,” Sumartono said.
“We charged him because of his disobedience,” he said.