The district court in Serang, Banten’s capital on Thursday handed down jail sentences of between three and six months for all 12 defendants.
The men were found guilty of “participation in a violent attack that resulted in casualties.”
They were involved in a Feb. 6 attack on a group of Ahmadis gathered at the home of an Ahmadiyah leader in Cikeusik, a village some 95 kilometers from Serang.
Three Ahmadis died in the videotaped attack while five others were seriously injured.
The attack allegedly involved some 1,500 Islamist militants and about 20 Ahmadiyah members.
The United States and European Union on Thursday expressed disbelief over the lightness of the sentences, while Human Rights Watch called it a “sad day for Indonesia.”
The US Embassy encouraged Indonesia “to defend its tradition of tolerance for all religions, a tradition praised by President [Barack] Obama in his November 2010 visit to Jakarta.”
The embassy called the sentences “disproportionately light.”
But Slamet Effendy Yusuf, of the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI), criticized Western nations for only seeing the verdict from their own perspectives.
“Western countries must respect another country’s judiciary system based on its own cultural and philosophical background,” Slamet said.
He pointed out that Anders Behring Breivik, the man charged with killing 76 people in terror attacks on July 22, would face harsher penalties in Indonesia.
In Norway, Breivik faces a maximum sentence of 21 years but in Indonesia, a terror suspect would be facing a death sentence for a similar crime.
“But we don’t criticize their law, even though we think what he did is unacceptable,” Slamet said. “Regardless of the case, they have to respect Indonesia’s judiciary system.”
However, Salahuddin Wahid, a scholar from Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia’s largest Muslim Organization said that many Muslims in Indonesia also questioned the light sentences.
“But it is the court’s authority [to decide],” he said, adding it was within the other countries’ rights to express their disappointment.
“It is OK if they want to have a say as long as they are not applying any pressure,” he said.