Indonesian Muslim hardliner sentenced to 18 months in jail
An Indonesian court Thursday sentenced a Muslim hardliner to 18 months in prison for his role in a violent attack against an interfaith rally in June that left dozens of people injured, reported dpa.
The Central Jakarta district court found Habib Rizieq Shihab, chairman of Islamic Defenders' Front (FPI), guilty of committing an act of inciting hatred and instigating violence.
"The defendant Habib Rizieq Shihab has been proven legally and convincingly guilty in transgressing the law for ordering others to commit violent acts," chief judge Panusunan Harahap said.
Shihab emotionally responded to the ruling, saying he could not accept the court's decision and would file an appeal to a higher court in order to overturn the verdict.
"Absolutely, we will file an appeal to a higher court against the ruling. This is an insulting court decision," said Mohamad Asegaff, one of Shihab's lawyers.
Hundreds of Shihab's followers were present in the courtroom, shouting "Allahu Akbar!" (God is Great).
Security was tight during Thursday's court session with more than 1,500 police officers, including armed policemen, deployed to prevent violent incidents.
Witnesses said a brief scuffle between FPI followers and policemen broke out when some of the angry hardliners tried to force their way into the court building.
Government prosecutors accused Shihab of inciting FPI members to violently ambush a rally led by the National Alliance for the Freedom of Faith and Religion at Jakarta's National Monument area on June 1.
Shihab told the court repeatedly that he did not give orders to his followers to attack the rally, claiming that he was not at the scene when the incident took place.
Hundreds of stick-wielding FPI followers violently attacked an interfaith rally in support of Ahmadiyah, an Islamic minority dubbed "heretical" by the country's top clerics.
Dozens were injured in the attack, which sparked an outcry from moderate Muslim groups and government officials across the country, demanding a government ban of the extremist organization.
A week after the violent attack, however, the government issued a decree ordering followers of the Ahmadiyah sect to cease all activities and return to mainstream Islam or face five years imprisonment and the disbanding of the group.
Mainstream Muslims reject Ahmadiyah's claim of the prophethood of its founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who died in 1908 in India. Most Muslims believe that Mohammed is the last of the prophets. In 2004, Shihab was already jailed for seven months for inciting vandalism against entertainment spots in Jakarta and spreading hatred against the government.
Indonesia is home to the world's largest Islamic population, with nearly 88 per cent of its 225 million people being Muslims. The country has a long history of religious tolerance.