Cult leader chooses to face trial without an attorney

Jakarta, Indonesia - Agus Imam Solichin faced his second hearing on the charge of religious blasphemy in the South Jakarta District Court on Monday.

Prosecutors have indicted the defendant for spreading heretical teachings among Muslims who attended his religious gatherings.

During the hearing, Agus sat in court alone, without an attorney.

Several witnesses joined by their families watched the trial.

"Although, there was no attorney, his position was equal *to a defendant accompanied by an attorney*.

"That's his choice," prosecutor Dedy Sukarno told The Jakarta Post.

The next hearing will be held next week and will call on officials from the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) as expert witnesses.

"We need Islamic experts from the MUI to give their assessment on his teachings and to decide if they have deviated from Islam," said Dedy.

Agus, who reportedly encouraged group sex rituals, faces five years in prison if he is found guilty of religious blasphemy.

His sect allegedly instructed its members not to perform the main Islamic obligations, including prayers, fasts and zakat (mandatory charity), the prosecutor's dossier reads.

"The cult does not recognize pilgrimage usually conducted by visiting Mecca," said Dedy.

Media reports said the sect conducted regular gatherings called pengajian.

According to the prosecutor, the cult began these gatherings not by reading verses from Islamic scriptures, but by singing songs from the local band Letto.

Some of the members acknowledged that some of them possessed bachelor and masters degrees.

Police said Agus only allowed married men and women to join the sect, and encouraged his members to trade sexual partners and perform sexual acts in front of one another and himself