Twelve men suspected of attacking members of the Ahmadiyah community face trial. The attack in February, in which three people were killed, has been the worst in a recent series of hate crime against the minority group.
Supporters of the hard-line Islamic group Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) Stand want Ahmadiyah to be banned
More than 1,000 policemen backed by water canon and armored vehicles are on standby, securing the court in Serang, West Java. Outside the courthouse hundreds of people are holding mass prayers and chanting verses from the Koran to show solidarity with the men on trial. Authorities fear violent outbreaks from the defendants' radical supporters.
On February 6, Islamic radicals brutally assaulted members of the religious group Ahmadiyah. They had been gathering in West Java's Banten province at the house of one of their religious leaders. Three Ahmadis were killed in the attack. A Video of the slaying has spread on the internet. The police have come under fire for "not having done enough" to stop the violent acts. It is said to be one of the worst acts of violence in a long line of attacks against Indonesian Ahmadis in recent years.
If proven guilty, the twelve accused men may face twelve years imprisonment or the death sentence. They are accused of "inciting violence" and carrying sharp weapons, but not of murder. One of the men on trial is a cleric charged with masterminding the attack. Using text messages, he is supposed to have instructed people to "mobilize Muslim scholars, clerics and school students to besiege Ahmadis in Cikeusik village."
Hundreds of Islamic radicals attacked the Ahamdis without the police doing enough to stop the violence
Unlike mainstream Muslims, the Ahmadis believe in another prophet after Mohammed, which is a violation of Indonesia’s blasphemy law. A ministerial decree from 2008 bans the community, viewed by many as a sect, from religious practice. Recently, a spout of violence against the Ahmadis has escalated and protests have been emerging throughout the country demanding authorities to ban the community. Currently there are around 500,000 followers of the faith who claim to be faced with discrimination.
Human rights groups see Tuesday's trial as a test for Indonesia's efforts to fight violence against minorities. But, "for the trial to be a step forward ending religious violence in Indonesia, the police need to ensure the security of everyone in the courtroom," says Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director Elaine Person.
Author: Anggatira Gollmer (afp, ep)
Editor: Sarah Berning