Twelve Indonesians Stand Trial over Sectarian Murders

SERANG

Twelve Indonesians stood trial on Tuesday over the gruesome mob slaying of three minority Islamic sect members, the worst in a recent spate of hate crimes in the country.

More than 1,000 troops and police backed by water cannon and armoured vehicles threw a security cordon around the court in Serang, West Java, amid fears of further violence from the defendants’ radical supporters.

Around 2,000 people held a mass prayer and chanted Koranic verses in a show of solidarity with the accused, who could face between 12 years in jail and death if convicted.

The indictment accuses the male defendants of crimes including “inciting violence” but not murder, even though a graphic video of the slayings has been widely distributed on the internet.

Islamic fanatics brutally murdered three members of the Ahmadiyah sect in West Java’s Banten province in February, one of the most horrific in a long line of attacks on the sect in Indonesia in recent years.

Ahmadiyah, unlike mainstream Muslims, do not believe Mohammed was the last prophet and are regarded as heretics and blasphemers by conservatives in places like Pakistan and Indonesia.

A video taken by a sect member showed the crowd of more than 1,000 people push police aside and storm a local Ahmadiyah leader’s house shouting “infidel” and “Allahu akbar” (God Is Great).

After a brief exchange of rocks, the mob overpowered the defenders and set upon them with sticks and stones. One man was filmed being stoned and clubbed to death as he knelt on the ground half-naked. The bodies were then violated.

Police officers fled the scene once the violence began, but returned later to mill among the mob as it destroyed the sect’s property and continued to beat the corpses of the three male victims.

A cleric, Ujang Mohammed Arif, 52, is charged with masterminding the attack by inciting others to commit violence.

Arif sent another defendant, Endang bin Sidik, a phone text message days before the attack reading “please mobilise ulemas, clerics and Koranic school students to besiege Ahmadis in Cikeusik (village),” prosecutors said.

Endang forwarded the message to 62 people and asked them to gather at his house and wear blue ribbons on the day of the assault.

Two of the accused could face the death penalty if convicted of carrying sharp weapons under a 1951 emergency law. The law has traditionally been used against suspected separatist rebels, analysts say.

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