5/20/11 Indonesia (JakartaGlobe) – Six of the 25 men standing trial for burning down churches last February could get away with serving less than an eighth of the prescribed sentence after prosecutors sought unusually light punishment.
Lead prosecutor Gindara told the Semarang District Court that while the six were involved in the riot on Feb. 8 in which an Islamic mob burned down two churches and a Christian school in Temanggung, Central Java, the state was only seeking eight-month sentences for each of them.
The demand falls far short of the five-and-a-half to seven years stipulated for mob violence under Article 170 of the Criminal Code.
Gindara reasoned that the punishment demanded should be “commensurate with what they’ve done.”
However, Eko Surwarni, a spokeswoman for the Central Java Prosecutors’ Office, said she was surprised by the exceedingly light demand.
“Article 170 of the Criminal Code clearly states that if such a criminal act of violence results in injuries or damage to property, then the perpetrators may be subject to up to seven years in prison,” she said.
Catur Sulistyo, a member of the Church of St. Peter and Paul, which was one of those damaged in the riot, said the light sentence demand was regrettable.
“However, we can’t say anything about it because we’re still gripped by fear,” he said.
“For us, the unrest is not something we can easily forget. We’re still traumatized by it.”
In the incident, roving mobs of Muslims attacked and vandalized five buildings in Temanggung following the sentencing of Antonius Richmord Bawengan, a Christian, for blaspheming against Islam.
The rioters were incensed at the five-year sentence handed down to Antonius, which they deemed too lenient, thus setting off the spasm of violence.
Two churches, a Christian school and two police stations were vandalized by the mob, while several cars and motorcycles were also set on fire. Nine people were injured in the violence, most of them from rocks thrown by the rioters.
Antonius had been convicted of distributing a book that claimed some of Islam’s holiest shrines were symbols of genitalia, as well as pamphlets describing the religion as a violent one.