The authorities in Indonesia have sparked international outrage by jailing a member of a minority Muslim sect who defended his community against an attack by a deadly, rampaging mob. The man received a sentence longer than that handed out to some of those caught on video perpetrating the attack.
Deden Sudjana, a member of the Ahmadiyah sect, argued he was acting in self-defence when hundreds of hard-line Muslims attacked a meeting of his community earlier this year and he sought to defend them. But the court handed down a sentence of six months to him after convicting him of refusing a police order to leave the scene and hitting the leader of the mob, which killed three people.
”I’m the victim,” the 48-year-old said, as he was escorted from the courtroom, according to the Associated Press. “Why am I getting a higher sentence than some of the perpetrators?”
Human rights groups and campaigners said the incident highlighted the persecution and discrimination faced by Ahmadis, not just in Indonesia, but elsewhere around the world. The community has also suffered deadly attacks in places such as Pakistan. In May 2010, more than 80 Ahmadis were killed when militants attacked two mosques in the Pakistani city of Lahore.
“We are in despair. We cannot believe that a gang of people attacked a small group of our community gathered in their place of worship. The gang [attacked] them with everything that came to hand,” said Basha Nazir, a spokesman for the community in Britain. “The outrage is not limited to the Ahmadiyah community. Every decent-minded person around the world is outraged.”
Human rights groups said the incident and the subsequent prosecution of Mr Deden Sudjana revealed how the police, the judicial system and the government in world’s largest Muslim nation have acted together to fuel intolerance. They said the government headed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has done too little to stop the discrimination.
Andreas Harsono of Human Rights Watch told reporters: “We have the impression that the Indonesian justice system has surrendered to those who have decided to take the law into their own hands.”
Mr Sudjana was convicted of inciting violence because he defied police orders to leave the scene when the attackers arrived at a meeting of the Ahmadiyah community at Cikeusik in central Indonesia and instead fought back against the mob. His hand was almost severed by a blow from a machete. Footage of the incident that was circulated on the internet showed up to 1,500 people descending on a house where members of the sect had gathered.
The attackers, carrying wooden clubs, machetes and rocks, killed three people and continued to pummel their lifeless bodies, chanting “God is Great”. All this happen as nearby police stood and watched.
In total, 12 members of the mob which attacked the Ahmadis, who do not believe that Muhammad was the final prophet and are therefore considered heretical by some Muslims, have been convicted. None have been charged with murder, even though one man was captured on camera smashing in somebody’s head with a rock. They were handed sentenced of between three to six months.Reuse content