Friday, October 31, 2008

FPI members clash with police after Rizieq verdict

--- The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

FPI members clash with police after Rizieq verdict

Headlines - Fri, 10/31/2008 7:32 AM

Hundreds of members of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) clashed with police outside a Central Jakarta court and attempted to force the closure of a nearby Ahmadiyah mosque after their leader, Rizieq Shihab, was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

The FPI members, stationed outside the Central Jakarta District Court, were outraged at the guilty verdict handed down to Rizieq for his role in instigating an attack on religious freedom activists at the National Monument park on June 1.

After a shoving match with police officers securing the courthouse on Jl. Gajah Mada, the FPI members headed to the Al Hidayah mosque, run by the Ahmadiyah community, on Jl. Balikpapan, Gambir, to close it down.

They were stopped 50 meters shy of the mosque by the police, leading to a scuffle between the two. It ended when the FPI members dispersed.

No one was detained during the clash, but Central Jakarta Police deputy chief Heri Wibowo said there were elements inciting the crowd. Some 1,500 police officers had been deployed in anticipation of the hard-liners’ reaction to the verdict.

Rizieq’s supporters inside the court were also outraged. Several shouted and swore at the judges, but were asked to restrain themselves by their leader. Rizieq’s wife and children were crying.

Rizieq and his subordinate Munarman, commander of the Islam Troop Command, were both given 18-month sentences for their role in the attack on members of the National Alliance for the Freedom of Faith and Religion, rallying for the Ahmadiyah community after it had been declared heretical by the Indonesia Ulema Council (MUI).

The presiding judge at both trials, Manusunan Harahap, said Rizieq had been proved guilty of instigating violence, and Munarman of committing violence.

Both men protested the verdicts, claiming they were handed down based on dubious evidence.

Both said they would appeal, and Rizieq maintained his calls for anti-Ahmadiyah actions.

“Even if we risk breaking the law… even if I’m thrown in jail or die, we will never stop our efforts to disband Ahmadiyah,” Rizieq said after the sentence was read out.

There was a visible sense of relief among police officers outside the courthouse after a police car carrying Munarman, whose sentencing followed Rizieq’s, left the compound. The officers had frequently been engaged by the FPI in clashes throughout the trial. (mri)

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