The lenient sentences handed down to the killers of three Ahmadiyah followers were the result of “manipulated” legal proceedings, which began when police launched their preliminary investigation, a human rights group said on Monday.
Police limited the scope of the investigation and distracted the core issue to the point that Ahmadiyah members were blamed for the Feb. 6 attack, when they should have been recognized as victims, the Setara Institute for Peace and Democracy said.
“Instead of providing justice for the victims and getting the facts surrounding the incident, police constructed a story in which Ahmadiyah followers provoked the mob to attack them,” said Ismail Hasani, a researcher at the institute.
Police were too busy to defending their reputation, he said, to launch a fair and professional probe into the case.
Ismail said that during the incident in Cikeusik, Banten, officers were present at the scene but said they couldn’t control the mob or prevent them from assaulting the members of the minority Islamic sect. In order to avoid accusations of criminal negligence, he continued, police argued they had asked the Ahmadis to flee but the call was ignored.
From that point on, right up to the point the court verdicts were read, the Ahmadis were blamed for the attack, Ismail said.
Police arrested and charged 12 suspects in relation to the attack. Despite facing sentences of up to 12 years in jail, prosecutors recommended prison sentences of between five and seven months for the defendants.
On the other hand, prosecutors recommended nine months in jail for Deden Sujana, the head of security for the Indonesian Ahmadiyah Congregation (JAI), for allegedly provoking the attack.
The Serang District Court sentenced the attackers to between three and six months in jail, with the judge saying repeatedly that the Ahmadiyah members triggered the violence.
“We cannot blame the judicial system itself for the result because it might have been manipulated by the law enforcers, from the police to the prosecutors and the judge,” Ismail said.
Bonar Tigor Naipospos, Setara’s deputy chairman, said sectarian conflict would soon become a daily occurrence unless the government took serious measures against extremism.
“The main problem here is that there is no significant regulation to deal with the perpetrators of sectarian conflicts, especially if the perpetrators are coming from an Islamic group led by influential clerics,” Bonar said. “In such cases, law enforcement officials are hesitant to take serious action.”
According to the group, there were 99 sectarian conflicts or attacks in 13 provinces during the first half of the year. West Java experienced the most clashes, with 30 incidents.
“There were three major attacks in February, including in Cikeusik, Temanggung [Central Java] and Pasuruan [East Java],” Ismail said.
A violent mob burned down three churches in Temanggung, demanding that a Christian man be sentenced to death for insulting Islam. Also in February, hundreds of people set on the Yapi pesantren, or Islamic boarding school, which was accused of spreading Shiite teachings, injuring four students.
“Those three major clashes in February actually triggered more attacks in March and April,” he said. “Our reports show there were 24 incidents of religious violence in March and another 24 in April.”
Most of the incidents involved destruction of places of worship, accusations of apostasy, discriminatory regulations toward minority religions and forced conversions, particularly of Ahmadiyah members, the group said.
In March, 33 Ahmadiyah members living in Bogor decided to convert to mainstream Islam, following the wave of attacks and intimidation against sect members.