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‘Botched trial’ leaves Cikeusik mob in the dark
Bagus BT Saragih, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Firebrand trial: Judges overrule an objection last week from defendant Ujang against charges of battery and inciting hatred in the deadly attack against an Ahmadiyah minority sect in Cikeusik, Pandeglang regency, Banten. Antara/Asep Fathulrahman
Missing testimony on the events that led to a fatal attack on Ahmadis in Cikeusik, Pandeglang, has left the truth behind the ambush untold, a legal aid group said.
“None of the presented witnesses revealed the background of the incident, the history behind the attack, which we think would be very important to uncovering the motives, the key figures mobilizing the mobs and the source of the funds distributed to the attackers,” Erna Ratnaningsih, chairwoman of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) told a press conference on Sunday.
As many as 12 defendants have stood trial at the Serang District Court in Banten since late March. They have been indicted for violating various articles of the Criminal Code, including Article 170 on battery and Article 160 on inciting hatred.
The YLBHI is the official advocate of the Jamaah Ahmadiyah Indonesia (JAI).
According to Erna, the indictments against the defendants did not include the series of events that lead up to the attack.
“The efforts to intimidate and evict the Ahmadis had commenced at least by November 2010. Meetings were held by leaders of the local administration aimed at seeking ways to expel the Ahamdiyah followers from Cikeusik,” she said.
Erna said prosecutors also failed to mention the failure of the police to prevent the attack. She believed the police could actually have named more suspects in the case.
“We urge investigators to handle this case seriously and continue to develop the investigation based on any facts and evidence, including those revealed in court.”
Deden, an Ahmadiyah member, will also stand trial at the same court, pending finalization of an indictment by prosecutors. He has been charged with inciting hatred.
Erna said the police’s decision to arrest Deden was “a criminalization against a victim”.
“We strongly oppose such victim criminalization. We are declaring protest against the police and the prosecutors’ office. Based on available facts and evidence, Deden is innocent and clearly a victim of the tragedy,” she said.
On Feb. 6, about 1,500 people attacked a house used as a place of worship by Ahmadis in Cikeusik, after long-standing tension between the minority group and local residents.
The mob that killed three Ahmadis and injured five came under scrutiny after a video of the ambush circulated in the public.
In the video, the attackers wore blue ribbons, which police believed were to differentiate themselves from the targets of the attack.
Erna said Deden might have committed violence, but it was “self-defense against the attack”.
She cited Article 49 of the Criminal Code stipulating that such self-defense efforts could not be criminalized.
Another defendant is Ujang, reportedly a firebrand cleric. Prosecutors said at a hearing that Ujang had persuaded other clerics and public figures to disband the Ahmadis.
“Through text messages, the defendant was able to get many clerics and other public figures to join in his cause because he was an influential cleric in Pandeglang,” prosecutor Mad Yunus said.
Lawyer Achmad Michdan, from the Muslim Lawyers’ Team (TPM) who represented the defendants, said the prosecutors’ indictments against the 12 defendants were normative and solely based on the fact that there were victims in the case, while the chronology of the attack was not clear.
Michdan, however, shared Erna’s opinion that the indictments had been “designated not to reveal the masterminds”.
The hearings have consistently attracted hundreds of supporters of the defendants, forcing the Banten Police to deploy more than 500 officers to guard the courthouse.