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Investigation of Gafatar leader invites criticism

  • The Jakarta Post

    The Jakarta Post

| Mon, February 1 2016 | 06:30 pm
Investigation of Gafatar leader invites criticism

Sakinah, 51, displays pictures of her three sons, who have been missing since December. They are suspected to have joined the controversial Gerakan Fajar Nusantara (Gafatar) organization. (Tempo)

Human-rights activists have slammed an investigation into the leader of the controversial Fajar Nusantara Movement (Gafatar) by the Attorney General'€™s Office (AGO), labeling it a violation of his right to religious freedom.

The government is keeping an eye on Gafatar, calling the group illegal and saying it has deviant principles following the disappearance of several of its members. Gafatar leader Mahful Muis is being investigated by the AGO in relation to the case.

Human-rights advocacy group the Setara Institute stated recently that faith did not fall under the legal domain and therefore could not be tried. '€œThe government cannot prosecute a belief,'€ the organization claimed.

Chairman of Setara, Hendardi, said the attorney general had to learn from the criminalization of citizens conducted by the government in the past, which evidently failed.

"Any legal action will be futile and will violate human-rights principles," he said.

Citing the example of convicted cult leader Lia Eden who still did not change her beliefs despite her incarceration, Hendardi said that if the will to change does not come from the individual them self then the government's efforts are useless.

He called for the government to focus on protecting its citizens regardless of what religion they held to up hold the equal rights of every individual.

Mahful along with the movement's organizers and followers were questioned on several issues at the AGO. The Gafatar members were accompanied by Alvon Kurnia Palma, chairman of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) and Sudarto, a representative from the Bhineka Tunggal Ika National Alliance.

The interviews were recorded and written down for later submission to the Coordinating Board for Monitoring Mystical Beliefs in Society (Bakorpakem).

During the investigation, members were questioned in relation to plans to establish a sovereign state, blasphemy and the integration of three religions into one, as well as on allegations that Gafatar is a continuation of Al Qiyadah al-Islamiyah and Milah Abaraham communities.

The Gafatar members will be called back into the AGO when the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) issues a fatwa (edict) on their movement.

Association of Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals head Jimly Asshidique said there was already enough evidence to drag the leaders of Gafatar into the court of law.

Jimly pointed out two allegations which could be held against them.

First, their plan to form a new sovereign state, he said.

"That can already be taken up with the law; there are existing legal instruments. There is no need to wait for the terrorism-law revision," Jimly said as quoted on Tempo.co.

Second, Gafatar has permitted its members to break the law, he added.

The movement itself has become the cause of illegal activity, Jimly continued, while linking several reported disappearances.

He supported the scheduling of a hearing based on the aforementioned allegations.

"It can not necessarily be proven, but let the court decide," he said.

Should the court declare them innocent, all parties would have to respect the final verdict, he added.

Jimly said many still misunderstood court hearings, considering them to merely pick a winner and a loser in a case. Whereas, there is an element of public education during the process, he further said.

Jimly said a hearing could channel the public's concerns and calm any outrage. "The law enforcement must act immediately and not be afraid of winning or losing," he said. (liz/dan)(+)

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