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April 19, 2010
Demonstrations Planned Ahead of Blasphemy Verdict
A demonstration — most likely by members of the hard-line Islamic Defenders Front — can be expected outside the Constitutional Court on Jalan Merdeka Barat in Central Jakarta at 1 p.m., one hour before the court is due to deliver its verdict on the highly controversial 1965 Blasphemy Law.
On the final day of legal arguments on March 23, members of the organization, also known as the FPI, allegedly assaulted four people in the basement of the court building.
Sidik, a member of the petitioners’ legal team, also known as the Religious Freedom Advocacy Team, said he observed several men clad in the FPI’s Arabic-style uniforms intimidating colleagues Uli Sihombing and Nurkholis Hidayat near the cafeteria and prayer room during a two-hour lunch break.
All four were held with arms around their necks and punched and kicked by the FPI members.
Though the Traffic Management Center did not say on its Web site on Monday which groups would demonstrate, during the course of the trial, members of the FPI and Hizbut Tahrir — who are pushing for Shariah law — have held noisy protests outside the court, and often disrupted court proceedings with shouting.
With the court due to begin delivering its verdict at 2 p.m., a final decision may not be known till around 4 a.m., with any unrest likely to impact on peak hour traffic flows.
The 1965 law recognizes only six religions: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism. Others are officially banned. It also prohibits alternative interpretations of recognized religions, including Islam.
The review was filed by human rights groups and the late former President Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid, who was also a longtime former chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization, on the grounds the law limits freedom of religion and is unconstitutional.
If the law is indeed declared unconstitutional, the impact will open the door for a number of religions to begin worshiping in Indonesia.