Indonesia jails sect member wounded in mob attack

Serang, Indonesia - An Indonesian court on Monday jailed a minority sect member for six months for defending himself and others from a lynch mob which killed three of his friends earlier this year.

The sentence was the same or stiffer than those handed out last month to 12 Islamic extremists who led the mob in the February rampage, including a teenager who was filmed crushing one victim's head with a stone.

Human rights activists expressed outrage that one of those wounded by the mob should be jailed for longer than the leaders of the violence.

A panel of judges found Ahmadiyah sect member Deden Sudjana guilty of ill-treatment and ignoring an order to evacuate the sect's property in Cikeusik, western Java, as the armed mob arrived.

"The defendant failed to act following the police order to evacuate," one of the judges told Serang district court.

"Video footage shows the defendant started punching a man with a black jacket," the judge added.

Wearing a traditional batik shirt, the 48-year old defendant heard the sentence in stunned silence. Later he told AFP he was "disappointed" with the ruling.

"It's embarrassing. I'm purely a victim who has been criminalised in my own country," he told AFP.

"There was no police order to evacuate and I hit the man because he entered our house of worship, calling us infidels, and ordered people to kill us. Isn't it normal that I hit the man as an act of self-defence?"

Sudjana said he would consult with his lawyer about lodging an appeal.

Ahmadiyah, unlike mainstream Muslims, do not believe Mohammed was the last prophet and are regarded as heretics and blasphemers by conservatives in countries such as Indonesia and Pakistan.

Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director Elaine Pearson said: "The inconsistency between the trials of those who killed the Ahmadiyah and the trial of Deden Sudjana is appalling and smacks of injustice.

"Those responsible for the deaths of three Ahmadis got three to six months, and Sudjana also got six months -- seems like the Ahmadiyah face blatant discrimination not just from Islamic militant mobs, but also from an Indonesian court."

One of the mob, members of Indonesia's majority Sunni sect, almost severed Sudjana's left hand with a machete during the February 6 onslaught, which pitted about 20 Ahmadiyah followers against around 1,500 enraged fanatics.

A secretly filmed video of the Cikeusik rampage sparked international concern when it appeared online within days of the attack.

The footage shows police fleeing the scene as the mob -- armed with machetes and knives and shouting abuse at the "infidels" -- launched their attack.

A handful of Ahmadiyah men tried to defend the property with stones and slingshots but were quickly overwhelmed.

Pearson said the Indonesian government "should clean up its justice system", which President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono admits is at the mercy of a "court mafia" of corrupt police, prosecutors and judges.

"The failure to hold the perpetrators of religious violence accountable just leads to more violence," she said, referring to an attack by Islamic extremists on an Ahmadiyah mosque in the town of Makassar on Sunday.

Human rights activists say religious intolerance has been on the rise in Indonesia under Yudhoyono, who is accused of pandering to conservative Muslim voters rather than upholding the country's pluralistic traditions.

Indonesian officials including Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa have dismissed international concern about the judiciary's handling of the Cikeusik violence, saying the state cannot intervene in the courts.

The United States and the European Union have expressed misgivings over the perceived light sentences given to the perpetrators of the attack.