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Indonesia wants trial for Moslem radicals to continue

Agence France Presse - February 7, 1997

Jakarta – Prosecutors have demanded that an Indonesian court ignore an appeal by defence lawyers and continue the trial of three Moslem radicals charged with sowing hatred against the government, a report said Friday.

State prosecutor Azwar Safirin urged the South Jakarta District Court to ignore the defence lawyers' appeal for acquittal of the three members of a militant Moslem group called the Indonesian Islamic State (NII), the Jakarta Post reported.

The men, from Jakarta and nearby Bogor, are charged with sowing public hatred against the government. The law is one of the colonial hate-sowing articles introduced by Dutch colonisers. The charges carry a maximum sentence of seven years in jail.

Defence lawyers for the three have called for the charges to be dropped, saying that the government has not outlawed the NII and that the colonial hate-sowing laws are out of date.

The prosecutor's indictment says NII is striving to set up an Islamic state in Indonesia. The radical NII has been active since the 1970s, especially in West Java. The court will decide on February 19 whether to try the case.

Security authorities have interrogated hundreds of people over the last few years for their alleged role in extremist Moslem groups. Around 90 percent of Indonesia's 200 million people are Moslem, but the country is not an Islamic state. The constitution guarantees freedom of religion. jg/bs/lk