Religious leaders regret police arrests of `defiant' sect figures

Kupang, Indonesia - Leaders of the Timor Evangelical Church (GMIT) expressed disappointment over the arrests of alleged defiant Sion City of Allah sect leaders as suspects of religious blasphemy, regretting the police for not involving the church's experts in the legal process.

GMIT synod's secretary Robert Litelnoni said the police should have involved the church, the biggest Protestant one in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), before naming the seven leaders of the sect as suspects.

"The police was too rushed to name suspects," Robert said in Kupang on Friday.

Police have named seven figures of the alleged defiant Christian sect, including its leader Nimrot Lasbaun, as suspects in the case.

According to Robert, if the charge was religious blasphemy, then it must be clear which religion had been blasphemed.

"If it is the Protestant Christian that is blasphemed, then who has reported them to the police for arrests," he went on.

"GMIT has never felt of having been blasphemed."

Robert suggested that there was no need for the police to charge the Sion City of Allah leaders with articles on religious blasphemy, arguing that the church had never considered the case as a problem.

He added that GMIT had its own special rules on how to disciple its followers. He said the followers of the sect considered defiant would first have to undergo an internal supervision and would not be directly considered as wrongful.

The same concern was also expressed by GMIT's lawyer John Rihi, who said that it was too premature to use the religious blasphemy article because no expert from the church had been involved to give testimony. "GMIT is very disappointed with the naming of the seven as suspects," John said.

Separately, head of Kupang police's Supervision Affairs First Inps. Dedy Iskandar said his office had conducted the investigation process according to the prevailing laws because the case was seen as having created anxiety in the community.

"We hope the church will not interfere into the case," he said.

Kupang police chief Sr. Comr. Heri Sulistianto previously said that the suspects were detained because the teachings they were preaching were defiant. "They are blaspheming the religion in Indonesia and thus could face five years of imprisonment," Heri said, Thursday.

He said the sect, whose teachings were based on the book of Jeremiah, for example, ban its followers from joining church masses on Sunday.

It also rejected the holy communion conducted by the GMIT and forbid its female followers from wearing underwears while attending prayers. It as well rejected the wedding ceremonies held by the church.

"The leader (Nimrot Lasbaun) even said that his wounded right palm hands would cure themselves by 2011 after marrying to seven women," Heri said.

He added the sect had also given different titles to Nimrot and the six other elites of the sect, each wore a different color of robes. Nimrot, for example, was also given the title as White Horse and wore a white robe.

Kupang Mayor Daniel Adoe separately agreed the sect was defiant and thus he supported the police's probe into the case.

"This is clearly defient. How can a (Christian) teaching ban people from going to church?" Daniel said, adding that such teaching was not just against the religious teachings but as well the positive laws.