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Rights leaders attack light sentence

Verdict will only cause damage to the authority of the law and hurt people, says priest

Rights leaders attack light sentence
Konradus Epa, Jakarta

March 1, 2011

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Religious leaders and human rights activists yesterday slammed a verdict issued recently by the district court in Bekasi, West Java, on an attack case against a Protestant pastor that happened last year. The court sentenced the suspended leader of the district’s branch of the Islam Defenders Front, Raya Murhali Barda, to 5½ months in jail on February 24. Barda was accused of attacking Reverend Luspida Simanjuntak and her assistant Hasean Lumbantorun Sihombing of the Batak Society Christian Church (HKBP) on September 12. Simanjuntak suffered concussion after being struck on the head with a plank of wood, while Sihombing was stabbed in the stomach. “The panel of judges showed (people) the situation of law in Indonesia. They were only afraid of a certain group,” Father Antonius Benny Susetyo, executive secretary of the Indonesian Bishops’ Conference’s Commission for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, said yesterday. Saying that the verdict will only harm legal authority and hurt people, the priest added that the law enforcement officials “must obey the existing law so that it can never be violated.” The existing law, according to him, has failed to protect citizens. In the view of Theopilus Bela, secretary general of the Indonesian Committee of Religions for Peace, the verdict was unfair because the perpetrators were sentenced for “unpleasant acts” instead of criminal acts. Such a situation, he said, will harm the credibility of legal institutions and cause public distrust, which can destroy the interreligious harmony in the country. Meanwhile, in its statement issued following the verdict, the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace lamented the failure of both the court and panel of judges in perceiving the impact of the situation on freedoms of religion and faith due to the verdict. Related report Attacks on Protestant pastors condemned IJ13461.1643
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