Jakarta: The ringleader of a frenzied mob
attack that killed three members of a minority Muslim sect was
sentenced today to 5 1/2 months in prison in a ruling decried
by critics as too lenient and a blow to religious freedom in
Ten others also were convicted of less serious charges
of weapons possession in the February violence and sentenced
to between three and six months behind bars.
Indonesia, a predominantly Muslim and secular nation
of 240 million, has a long history of religious tolerance.
But an extremist fringe has grown more vocal in recent
years and the government, which relies on the support of
Islamic parties in Parliament, has been accused of caving in
The government in 2008 banned the activities of the
sect and rights activists say the decision might have
encouraged the violence against the group.
The attack on members of Ahmadiyah considered deviant
by many conservative Muslims here and abroad because they do
not believe Muhammad was the final prophet placed Indonesia
under the international spotlight because it was captured on
video and widely circulated on the Internet.
It provoked condemnation in Europe and the US.
The clip showed 1,500 people storming a house in
Banten province on February 6 with machetes, rocks, and clubs
to stop sect followers from worshipping.
They beat three men to death and injured six others
before setting cars and houses ablaze.
Though a policeman showed up at the scene, his cries
of "stop" were drowned out by chants from the crowd on "Allahu
Akbar!" or "God is Great!"
The 17-year-old ringleader, Dani bin Misra, wearing a
black leather jacket and a white skull cap, is seen on the
footage eagerly smashing the skull of one of the lifeless
victims with a rock.
The Serang District Court found him and 10 others
guilty of illegal possession of weapons and involvement in the
None was charged with murder or manslaughter and the
maximum penalty for weapons possession is 5 1/2 years
"This verdict is an embarrassment to Indonesia," said
Rafendi Djamin, the executive director of the Jakarta-based
Human Rights Working Group, adding that it shows how a small,
radical fringe can influence the judicial system.
Police did not conduct thorough investigations, he
said, and prosecutors failed to call key eyewitnesses to the
attack in the village of Cikeusik.