Two days before the country’s Independence Day, the Serang District Court handed down a six-month jail term to a member of the Ahmadiyah religious sect for his involvement in a deadly clash that killed three of his sect’s members.
The court found Deden Darmawan Sudjana, a security chief of the local Ahmadiyah congregation, guilty of light assault and acting against state officials’ orders during the attacks on his congregation’s members in Cikeusik village, Banten, in February.
Although clearly disappointed with the verdict, the 48-year-old man appeared calm as he laconically answered journalists’ questions.
“I had hoped that the state and the judicial system could protect us — the minority — but that was too high an expectation,” he said after Monday’s trial session.
Deden questioned whether freedom of religion still existed as a legal right in Indonesia, which is a secular and pluralistic country.
“We [Ahmadis] may be different with other beliefs and religions. However, we should not be persecuted for what we believe,” he said.
“I feel discriminated against in my own country, by my own people.”
As a minority sect that claims to be part of Islam, Ahmadis have experienced discrimination and prejudice from Muslims who considered their teachings blasphemous.
Indonesia, the largest Muslim-majority population in the world, has recently seen an escalation in cases of persecution against religious minorities.
There have been several attacks on Ahmadiyah communities across the country since 2008, when the government ruled that the minority sect not be allowed to proselytize or worship in public as an attempt to quell acts of violence against them.
Twelve of the attackers in the Cikeusik clash were sentenced to between three and six months in prison.
Presiding judge Sumartono said that Deden had triggered the riot, as he should have listened to police detective Hasanudin when he had asked him to leave Cikeusik and let the police take care of the approaching mob before it arrived at his home.
Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said that the court had contributed to the abuse against Ahmadiyah.
“Those responsible for the deaths of the three Ahmadis got three to six months, and Deden got six months — seems like the Ahmadiyah have faced blatant discrimination not just from Islamic militant mobs, but also from an Indonesian court,” she said. (lfr)