In this screengrab from video footage on YouTube, Muslim cleric Bahar bin Smith is seen beating a boy at his Islamic school.
A hard-line Muslim cleric has been jailed in Indonesia for severely beating students at an Islamic school he ran in West Java province after footage of the assaults was posted online and went viral.
The Bandung District Court sentenced Bahar bin Smith to three years' imprisonment on July 9 and ordered him to pay a fine of 50 million rupiah (US$3,540). Prosecutors had demanded a six-year sentence.
Judge Edison Muhammad said the cleric’s case was a serious breach of the country’s child protection laws. “He committed gross acts of violence against children that resulted in serious injuries,” he said.
Smith was arrested last December after the parents of several beaten students, aged 17 and 18, filed police complaints. He was accused of beating them at the Tajul Alawiyyin Islamic Boarding School he managed in Bogor district.
The violence was recorded on a video that soon went viral, sparking widespread outrage. In the footage the cleric is seen kicking and hitting boys in the face, causing serious injuries.
More than 1,000 police were deployed to prevent trouble after hundreds of Smith’s supporters gathered outside the court, according to media reports.
Smith is also the founder of a hard-line group called the Prophet’s Defender Council. Established in 2007, the group regularly raids and forces the closure of entertainment venues during Ramadan after accusing them of being hotbeds of immorality.
He is also known to have ties to the notorious Islamic Defenders Front, another hard-line group known to use violence against minorities or those who do not follow its form of Islam.
Smith is also one of the clerics who backed a series of rallies in 2016-17 in Jakarta against the city’s former Christian governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama to demand he be sent to jail for insulting Islam,
He is also accused of hate speech after allegedly calling President Joko Widodo a transsexual.
The remark was allegedly made in a sermon in Palembang, South Sumatra, in 2016 when he is said to have called Widodo "a traitor" and "a shemale."