Asia - Pacific

Indonesia: Leaders of 'deviant' religious group jailed

Trio seen as leading religious community whose settlement was attacked last year for 'deviating' from traditional Islam

Ekip   | 07.03.2017
Indonesia: Leaders of 'deviant' religious group jailed

Jakarta Raya

By Ainur Rohmah

TUBAN, Indonesia

An Indonesian court has jailed three men for leading a religious community whose settlement on the island of Borneo was attacked last year for “deviating” from traditional Islam.

Judge Muhammad Sirad told a Jakarta court Tuesday that the defendants -- who had been charged with leading the Gerakan Fajar Nusantara movement, better known as Gafatar -- were "proven to have tarnished one of the religions in Indonesia deliberately in public".

Gafatar’s founder Ahmad Moshaddeq and its president Mahful Muis Tumanurung were sentenced to five years in prison, while its vice president Andri Cahya was handed a three-year term.

Moshaddeq had previously spent time in prison on blasphemy charges after declaring himself a “prophet”.

Gafatar is suspected of being the proxy for another organization that has been banned by the Indonesian government.

On Tuesday, the court was told that the defendants commanded their followers to abandon Islamic worship such as prayer, fasting and the Hajj pilgrimage.

Prosecutors also accused the trio of rebellion against a legitimate government -- a charge thrown out by the judge for lack of evidence.

"Ordered the three defendants remain in custody," Judge Sirad was quoted as saying by detik.com.

In February last year, the Indonesian Ulema Council declared a fatwa calling Gafatar a heretical organization, saying its teachings could cause unrest and religious conflict.

It stated that Gafatar shared the same doctrine as Al-Qiyadah al-Islamiya, which was banned in 2007.

Earlier in 2016, the government was forced to repatriate thousands of members of the organization using aircraft and warships after Kalimantan residents protested and burned their settlement in the Mempawah Regency.

Thousands of local residents had earlier taken to the streets to complain about the religious community after a doctor left the neighboring area to join the movement, followed by the disappearance of hundreds of other people.

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