Trial begins after shocking mob violence ends in slaying

Jakarta, Indonesia - TWELVE men stood trial for the brutal killing of three followers of the minority sect Ahmadiyah yesterday charged with ''inciting violence'' rather than murder, even though the mob attack was filmed in all of its grisly detail.

More than 1000 military and police secured a court complex in Serang, in Banten province in west Java, as 2000 supporters of the accused chanted and recited verses from the Koran.

The attack by several hundred Islamic fanatics shocked Indonesians, with the disturbing footage of the victims naked bodies being repeatedly stoned and beaten with sticks as police looked on, was widely viewed on TV and the internet.

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It was the latest in a series of violent attacks on members of minority religions in Indonesia over the past two years, and the trial of the 12 men is being closely watched to see what punishment, if any, is meted out.

There are about 200,000 Ahmadiyah followers in Indonesia. The religion is a variant of Islam but some orthodox Muslims despise it because it does not recognise that Muhammad was the last prophet, a central tenet of Islam.

The Indonesian government banned Ahmadis from preaching publicly in 2008, angering liberals as Indonesia has a secular constitution that recognises freedom of religion.

A cleric, Ujang Mohammed Arif, 52, with links to the violent Islamic Defenders Front, is charged with leading the attack.