Indonesian Muslim vigilante sentenced to 3 years for ‘aiding terrorism’

Arie Firdaus
2022.04.06
Jakarta
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Indonesian Muslim vigilante sentenced to 3 years for ‘aiding terrorism’ Indonesian Munarman (left), joined by his client, firebrand cleric Muhammad Rizieq Shihab, gestures at reporters following Rizieq’s questioning at the Regional Police Headquarters in Jakarta, Dec. 12, 2020.
AP

An Indonesian court sentenced a senior member of an outlawed Islamic vigilante group to three years in prison on Wednesday for having “provided assistance to the perpetrators of terrorism.”

The defendant, Munarman, a former spokesman for the defunct Islamic Defenders’ Front (FPI), had failed to tell authorities that he knew about events where people pledged allegiance to the Islamic State extremist group in 2014 and 2015, a three-judge panel at the East Jakarta District Court ruled.

“[T]he defendant did not report to the police that there was a pledge and a convoy for a declaration of support for ISIS,” the chief judge said, using another acronym for the Islamic State.

“The defendant did not stop, and even confirmed that he would attend the event. ... The defendant was proven to have provided assistance to the perpetrators of terrorism,” ruled the chief judge whose name was withheld over security concerns.

While sentencing Munarman to prison, the judges said prosecutors had not proven their allegation that he participated in the IS pledge.

The events took place at the Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University near Jakarta in July 2014 and at the FPI’s headquarters in Makassar on Sulawesi Island in January 2015, and were disguised as religious study sessions, according to the court.

Prosecutors had requested an eight-year jail sentence for Munarman, a former human rights lawyer who once headed the country’s main legal aid foundation. They and a lawyer for Munarman, Achmad Michdan, plan to challenge the sentencing.

“We are appealing the decision,” Michdan told reporters.

Munarman, who goes by one name, made no comment about the verdict. He has been incarcerated since May 2021.

The defendant has had previous brushes with the law. Munarman was jailed for 18 months for attacking members of a group called the National Alliance for Freedom of Religion and Belief during a rally in Jakarta in 2008.

600 security personnel

Outside the courthouse, police had erected barbed wire on the street in front in anticipation of the sentencing. In addition, East Jakarta police chief Senior Commissioner Budi Sartono said 600 security personnel were deployed to anticipate a rally by Munarman’s supporters.

In a statement read in court last month, Munarman blasted what he called a show trial and said authorities wanted him jailed because he had spoken out against the irregularities surrounding the killing of six FPI members by police in 2020.

“The case was fabricated to cover up the extrajudicial killings. [They] came up with the slander that the FPI indeed supported ISIS,” Munarman said at the time.

The slain FPI members were traveling in a convoy with the group’s leader, Muhammad Rizieq Shihab.

The National Commission on Human Rights said its investigation found police had acted unlawfully in killing at least four of the six men.

Two police officers were tried and acquitted as the judges ruled they acted in self-defense.  

Rizieq was sentenced to four years in prison last year for withholding his positive COVID-19 test results despite the government’s request for information after he held large gatherings.

Previously, Rizieq and five of his associates were sentenced to eight months in prison for violating coronavirus restrictions by organizing events that drew thousands of people.

The Indonesian government officially banned the FPI in December 2020 after it accused the group of violating the law and disrupting peace and security. In addition, 35 members and former members had been convicted on terrorism charges.

The decision to ban the organization was taken jointly by Indonesia’s home, law and communications ministers, the police and counter terrorism heads, and the attorney general.

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