Indonesia: Muslim Preacher Sentenced for Striking Teens

Arie Firdaus
190709-ID-preacher-620.jpg A woman in Jakarta watches the sentencing of preacher Bahar bin Smith on her tablet, July 9, 2019.
Arie Firdaus/BenarNews

An Indonesian court convicted and sentenced a firebrand Islamic preacher, who earlier gained notoriety for calling the country’s president a traitor, to three years in prison on Tuesday for assaulting two teenagers who had impersonated him last year.

Bahar bin Smith, 33, the founder of an Islamic school in Bogor, West Java, was found guilty of causing grievous injury to the teens aged 18 and 17 on Dec. 1, 2018, judges at the Bandung district court ruled.

“The defendant is legally guilty of committing violence against children which resulted in serious injuries,” Chief Judge Edison Muhammad ruled.

Video footage of the attack, which went viral on social media, showed the long-haired and blond cleric kneeing one of the teens in the face, according to a local news report.

In addition to the prison sentence, the court ordered Bahar to pay a fine of 50 million rupiah (U.S. $3,540).

The preacher made national headlines last year when he called Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo a “sissy” and a “traitor” during a speech.

“If you voted for him in the last [2014] election, you will be held to account in the hereafter. You voted for a furniture seller and you deserve whatever is happening to you,” Bahar told his followers in the speech.

Police questioned him after receiving hate-speech complaints but did not file charges.

Following his arrest on the assault charges, Bahar warned the president: “Wait for me and feel the sharpness of my tongue.”

The sentence was more lenient than the six years requested by the prosecutor, with Judge Edison citing Bahar’s remorse and polite behavior during the trial as mitigating factors.

The defendant said he did not intend to attack the teenagers, but was trying to warn them not to pass themselves off as him.

“If I had had bad intentions, I could have told my students to finish them off,” Bahar told the court.

After hearing the verdict, Bahar, shook hands with the judges, kissed an Indonesian flag in the courtroom and shouted “Allahu akbar (God is great)!”

Lawyer Ichwan Tuankotta, said his client had not decided whether to appeal, but said he was glad the sentence was lower than what the prosecutor requested.

“We appreciate the judge’s decision,” Ichwan said.

Police deployed about 1,000 officers to provide security inside and outside the courthouse in Bandung, where hundreds of Bahar’s supporters rallied.

“Free our teacher!” one supporter shouted.

Bahar has had at least one previous brush with the law.

He was arrested in 2012 and later released after he and his followers attacked a Jakarta café during Ramadan.


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