Indonesian Cleric Gets One-Year Sentence for Church Attacks

6/14/11 Indonesia (JakartaGlobe) – An Indonesian court on Tuesday sentenced a cleric one year in jail for inciting hundreds of people to burn churches and attack police.

In February, a 1,500-strong mob of Muslims set two churches alight and ransacked a third in the town of Temanggung, on Java island, as they demanded that a Christian man be sentenced to death for insulting Islam.

Syihabudin, 46, was convicted of whipping up the mob, which started the mayhem from inside a court, set a police vehicle ablaze and threw stones at officers.

“We sentence the defendant for a year in prison because he was found guilty of provocation,” Semarang district court judge Edy Tjahyono said.

Tjahyono said the punishment would be reduced by several months to take account of time already served.

A few of his supporters chanted “Allahu akbar (God is greater)” outside the court before the trial started.

The cleric said in court he would appeal the sentence.

After the trial ended, Syihabudin told dozens of his supporters inside the court to go home in peace.

“I’m not here because I’m a thief, I’m here because I’m a defender of the religion. Please don’t take this verdict as something bad,” Syihabudin said.

In a separate trial, seven members of the mob were handed five-month jail terms for ransacking churches and public property.

Last week, judges at Semarang district court convicted 17 Muslims in connection with the violence, sentencing 16 to five months in jail and the last to four months.

Indonesia’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion but rights groups say violence against minorities including Christians and the Ahmadiyah Islamic sect has escalated since 2008.

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