Indonesia jails activist lawyer on Islamic radicalism charges

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) – A former Indonesian human rights lawyer who joined a hard-line Islamic group was sentenced to three years in prison on Wednesday for incitement to establish a caliphate in a secular country.

The three-judge panel of the East Jakarta District Court found Munarman guilty of withholding information from authorities about militants who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in January 2015 in Makassar, capital of South Sulawesi province , and instead “to have given a speech urging people to carry to thwart acts of terrorism.”

“The defendant does not support the government’s program to eradicate terrorism,” the presiding judge said in the decision.

Known by just one name, 53-year-old Munarman was the general secretary of the now-banned Islam Defenders Front, widely known by the Indonesian acronym FPI, which has a long history of vandalizing nightspots and throwing stones at Western embassies and attacks on rival religious stock groups. She wants Islamic Sharia to apply to Indonesia’s 230 million Muslims.

Police arrested Munarman in April 2021 after questioning scores of suspected militants following the Palm Sunday bombing outside a Roman Catholic cathedral on March 28, 2021 that killed two suicide bombers and wounded 20 people.

The judges ordered the time he had already served deducted from his sentence.

Munarman was a former activist and human rights lawyer before joining FPI. He represented the group’s leader, Rizieq Shihab, an influential cleric who was sentenced to four years in prison last year.

Munarman was sentenced to 18 months in prison in 2008 after his group attacked a religious event in Jakarta’s National Monument Park, injuring dozens of attendees.

During the trial, which began in December, Munarman denied any wrongdoing and said he was the victim of political persecution to silence his criticism of the government. He denied that FPI supported the Islamic State group.

Police said they received videos showing Munarman pledging allegiance to ISIS. He told the court he couldn’t avoid it because he was an invited guest at an event.

Both Munarman and the prosecutors, who sought an eight-year sentence for him, said they would appeal Wednesday’s verdict.

The government banned the FPI in December 2020 on the grounds that it had no legal basis to operate as a civil organization and its activities often broke the law and caused public unrest.

Indonesia has struggled with militancy since al-Qaeda-linked group Jemaah Islamiyah carried out bombings on the resort island of Bali in 2002, killing 202 people, mostly foreign tourists. Attacks on foreigners have largely been replaced in recent years by smaller, less deadly attacks on government, police, counter-terrorist forces and people perceived by militants as infidels.

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