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Courts must get tougher on violent militias: Sutanto
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
The courts should severely punish members of radical groups convicted of violent offenses, National Police chief Gen. Sutanto says.
However, he said the courts convicted only a few members on criminal charges bought against them by the police and those who were tried generally received light sentences.
“Don’t say we are not dealing with them, we can prove otherwise,” Sutanto told reporters at a press briefing.
“The thing is, the (court) verdicts are always very lenient. The press can check the process from the beginning, and see that often (militia members) get let off after we hand them over (to prosecutors). We are getting tired of arresting them,” he said after a Cabinet meeting at the presidential office.
Dozens of members of the Islam Defenders Front have been arrested for vandalizing entertainment centers and brothels during the past five years. However, only the group’s leader, Habib Rizieq, was jailed for any significant time in 2002, following a spate of attacks on night spots.
Last month, police in Bekasi arrested 21 FPI members for vandalism after they attacked brothels in the area, however, their trials appear to have stalled.
In April, police arrested one person after an FPI mob attacked Playboy Indonesia’s Jakarta offices. His case also seems not to have reached the courts.
FPI members were also part of groups that stormed religious centers belonging to the Islamic Ahmadiyah sect in Bogor and Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, earlier this year, along with the offices of the Danish Embassy in February. Although police arrested several perpetrators, none have been taken to court.
“The laws mandate hefty punishments but the perpetrators walk free or get away with only light sentences. And then the public puts the blame on us. Are these (legal) institutions afraid (to hand down severe punishments)?,” Sutanto said.
He said police had no plans to revive the restrictive Soeharto-era 1985 Law on Mass Organizations, which allows the government to disband all organizations deemed to be causing public disorder. A better deterrent, he said, would be for the courts to hand down tough sentences to militia members found guilty of violent offenses.
“Give them the maximum penalty. The Criminal Code allows the court to hand down penalties of five years in jail, or even life imprisonment (in some cases),” he said.
Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Widodo A.S. earlier pledged to get tough on violent groups, by outlawing them or forcibly disbanding them if necessary.
Habib Rizieq, meanwhile, has said FPI members were taking the law into their own hands because police were failing to crack down on “un-Islamic” behavior.
He said militia groups like the FPI would voluntarily disband if the police did their jobs properly.
“There are many non-government organizations and civil groups that receive foreign funds. Why isn’t the government targeting them?
“Why target us, we who fight in the name of our faith against injustice? We’ll disband when the government can put an end to injustice and poor law enforcement,” Rizieq said.