Indonesian Cleric Gets One-Year Sentence for Provoking Church Attacks

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Christian Persecution in Indonesia

by Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

JAKARTA, INDONESIA (Worthy News)-- An Indonesian court sentenced an Islamic cleric to one year in jail for provoking hundreds of people to riot, attacking police and burning churches.

In February, a mob of 1,500 militant Muslims -- demanding that a Christian be sentenced to death for insulting Islam -- set two churches afire while ransacking another in the town of Temanggung on Java.

Syihabudin, 46, was convicted of inciting the mob from inside a courtroom, after which it set a police vehicle on fire and threw stones at officers.

"We sentence the defendant for a year in prison because he was found guilty of provocation," said Judge Edy Tjahyono of the Semarang district court. He said the punishment would be reduced by several months for time already served, but Syihabudin said he would appeal the sentence.

"I'm not here because I'm a thief," he said. "I'm here because I'm a defender of the religion. Please don't take this verdict as something bad."

Seven members of the mob were given five-month jail terms for ransacking churches and public property; last week, judges of the Semarang district court convicted 17 Muslims in connection with the violence, also sentencing most of them to five months in jail.

Although Indonesia's constitution guarantees freedom of religion, human rights groups said violence against religious minorities have escalated since 2008.

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