Ryan Dagur, Jakarta – Indonesian rights activists have condemned what they say were lenient sentences handed down by a district court in West Kalimantan province against 21 people who attacked an Ahmadi mosque.
The Pontianak District Court on Jan. 6 sentenced them to four months and 15 days in prison for ransacking the Miftahul Huda mosque and setting fire to a nearby building in Balai Haram, Sintang district, in September last year.
With time already served on remand, the 21 convicted people will be due for release on Jan. 22. They had faced possible jail terms of up to six years.
The Advocacy Team for Freedom of Religion and Belief expressed dismay at the punishment, saying it was "too light."
"The judge's decision is supposed to have a deterrent effect and be a warning to other people not to commit such actions, but this very light sentence will almost certainly encourage perpetrators," it said in a statement.
The group said the whole court process appeared to favor the defendants as prosecutors had demanded only six months instead of six years and they ended up with a sentence lower still.
The group said it would report the prosecutors and judges to the Attorney General's Office and the Supreme Court for violating their code of ethics
During the trial, the judge provided an opportunity for one of the defendants "to deliver hate speech against the Ahmadi community," it added.
The group said it would report the prosecutors and judges to the Attorney General's Office and the Supreme Court for violating their code of ethics.
Muhammad Isnur, from the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation, said the trial process showed discrimination and intolerance towards minority groups.
He pointed to the blasphemy case in which Basuki Tjahja Purnama, a Christian former governor of Jakarta, was jailed for two years in 2017.
He said it seemed the judges and prosecutors tailored the sentences to fit the period of detention that the defendants had already served.
Fitria Sumarni, a representative of the Ahmadi legal team, said they needed security guarantees for the Ahmadi community in Sintang.
She added that they had asked the police and relevant authorities to ensure the protection of the Ahmadi community and to allow the reopening of their mosque.
The Ahmadi, who number around 400,000 in Indonesia, are often targeted by other Muslims, who consider them heretics for believing that Muhammad was not the last prophet.
In 2005, the Indonesian Ulema Council declared their beliefs a deviant teaching "outside of Islam" and in 2008 the government issued a decree prohibiting them from spreading their teachings. Both moves are often used as an excuse to persecute them, including the Sintang case.