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Int’l groups ask RI to stop prosecuting Ahmadis
Bagus BT Saragih and Adianto P. Simamora, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
The international community has turned its eye on Indonesia’s continuing persecution of minority sect Ahmadiyah with 27 members of the US Congress signing a letter to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to revoke “prosecuting” bylaws.
In the letter dated March 15, the congressmen expressed “deep concern” on decrees issued by provincial authorities, including the East and West Java governors, banning Ahmadiyah followers from practicing their religion publicly.
“We also ask that you immediately revoke the decree that bans Ahmadiyah from conducting religious activities in the country and repeal the country’s long-standing blasphemy law, which is used to prosecute religious minorities who exercise their right to freedom of religion expression,” they said in the letter made available to The Jakarta Post on Thursday.
The congressmen also addressed the brutal attack on Ahmadiyah followers in Cikeusik, Pandeglang, Banten, last month, in which three Ahmadis were murdered in the presence of police officers. The congressmen also contended that the decree banning Ahmadiyah had led to escalating violence toward religious minorities.
“Not only do the decrees recently issued in East and West Java run contrary to the principles of international human rights, but we also fear that they will only serve to embolden extremists and exacerbate violence against the Ahmadiyah community,” they said.
Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said Thursday he had not received any letter from US congressmen.
Bylaws banning Ahmadiyah have been issued in five of the country’s 33 provinces, including West Java and East Java, the country’s most populated provinces. Administrations in seven regencies and four cities have also followed suit.
Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo earlier mulled issuing similar regulations but dropped the idea last week.
Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Djoko Suyanto said banning Ahmadiyah violated the Constitution. Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali and Home Minister Gamawan Fauzi, however, backed the regulations, saying they were in line with a controversial 2008 joint ministerial decree banning Ahmadis from propagating their religious beliefs.
International human rights groups have also protested Indonesia’s lack of willingness to investigate the Cikeusik incident and the recent report over the Indonesian Military’s (TNI) involvement in intimidating Ahmadis in West Java.
Amnesty International urged the Indonesian government to “investigate reports that the military in West Java were involved in the intimidation of Ahmadiyah followers and had forced them to renounce their faith”.
A coalition of several Indonesian human rights groups previously reported that soldiers had carried out Operasi Sajadah (Operation Prayer Mat), which was aimed at converting Ahmadis to the “right path” of Islam.
The coalition claimed they had recorded at least 56 acts of intimidation by soldiers against Ahmadis in the province after the Cikeusik attack.
West Java’s Ahmadiyah Indonesia Congregation (JAI) protested the acts and filed a complaint to the West Java Legislative Council.
The TNI denies its soldiers were ordered to influence people’s decisions, adding that its involvement was acceptable provided no coercion was involved.