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Muslim cleric found guilty of threatening pastor

Christian leader was threatened with decapitation

<p>Rev Palti Panjaitan</p>

Rev Palti Panjaitan

  • ucanews.com reporter, Jakarta
  • Indonesia
  • September 13, 2013
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A district court in Bekasi, West Java, has handed down a supspended two month sentence to a Muslim cleric for threatening the life of a Protestant pastor.

The court ruled that Abdul Azis, a local Muslim leader in Bekasi, was guilty of provoking hatred and threatening to behead Rev Palti Panjaitan of the Batak Society Christian Church Philadelphia, during a protest last year against the presence of the church in the neighborhood.

Presiding judge Wasdi Permana described the defendant’s threat as “a form of violence and unpleasant actions,” which violated Section 335 Article 1 of the Indonesian penal code.

“Hence the defendant is guilty and sentenced to two months in prison,” Permana told the court during the trial on Thursday, shorter than the three months sought by prosecutors in July.

The court, however, did not order his immediate arrest, but instead gave him six months’ probation to impose a change of his attitude as a religious leader.

“During the six month probation, you have to be prudent and must not commit any crime,” Permana told Azis during the trial.

Prosecutors said in July that they would not seek a tough sentence for the cleric, since he had admitted his misconduct, and also in consideration of his role as a religious leader in the area, who has a community to care for.

Responding to the court ruling, Rev Panjaitan told ucanews.com on Friday that “what matters most is that he is proven guilty,” against the cleric’s previous claim of innocence.

“I don’t mind whether the sentence is light or tough. I just want people to know that he is guilty,” Panjaitan said.

“I would not expect a longer term, either. I expect him to go back [to society] and not commit the same mistake.”

Panjaitan filed a police complaint in Jakarta on April 20 last year, saying the cleric had committed violence by intimidating and prohibiting Christians from conducting worship in the church in Jejalen Jaya village, Bekasi.

Philadelphia church was establishment in 2007. It began facing intimidation from radical Muslims in December 2009, which climaxed in January 2010 with the local government ordering the Civil Service Police Agency (Satpol PP) to seal the church and bar Christians from using it.

The congregation then successfully sued local authorities in a West Java district court, which in September 2010 ordered the Bekasi government to reopen the church.

However intimidation against the congregation and Rev Panjaitan continued, reaching its peak on Christmas Eve last year, when hundreds of radical Muslims led by Abdul Azis blocked the access road to the church, pelting the Christians with stones, rotten eggs and animal dung.

Christians are still not allowed to use the church.

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