‘Islamic leader tells pastor ‘I’m going to cut your throat’
Prosecutors demanded a three-month sentence for a man who threatened to kill the pastor of Bekasi’s embattled HKBP Filadelfia church during a tense Easter protest by hard-line Islamists outside the congregation’s shuttered church.
Abdul Aziz Bin Naimun admitted to threatening pastor Palti Panjaitan, telling prosecutors the death threats were meant to deter HKBP Filadelfia members from worshiping at their sealed church. According to witnesses, Abdul told the pastor, “Palti, I’m going to cut your throat,” while swiping his fingers across his neck as hard-liners hurled rotten eggs and cow feces at churchgoers .
“He admitted to what he did and [said] he did not know that he had violated the law,” presiding prosecutor Muhasan said before the Bekasi District Court.
The prosecution argued for a lenient sentence, telling a panel of judges that Abdul was young, cooperative and had promised not to threaten Palti again.
Abdul, a local religious leader, faced a maximum sentence of one year in prison and Rp 300,000 ($30) in fines for “committing unpleasant acts” under Indonesia’s Criminal Code.
Additional charges of hampering a religious service and making threats were dropped by the prosecution. He could have faced a maximum sentence of two years, eight months if charged with threatening Palti’s life.
The two men have been entwined in a separate legal cases since Christmas Eve of 2011. Abdul, who has long opposed the protestant church, filed a complaint with police after he was pushed during a Christmas protest that ended with rotten eggs thrown at the congregation.
Palti was questioned over the assault allegations following Abdul’s complaint but never charged.
Months later, as the church met for an outdoor Easter service near their sealed house of worship, Abdul arrived again, pelting Palti with eggs and cow dung before issuing the threat during an impromptu speech.
The church regularly holds public holiday services in protest of the Bekasi district administration’s decision to seal their church. A local district head sealed the church over claims that it lacked a building permit.
Indonesia’s Constitutional Court ruled in favor of HKBP Filadelfia’s appeal, but the local administration has ignored the ruling and, with the backing of intolerance groups, refused to allow the congregation to reopen the church.
Religious intolerance is on the rise in Indonesia where local governments routinely cow to pressure hard-line Islamist organizations, according to several prominent rights groups.
Church closures and demolitions have occurred with alarming frequency in the province of West Java. In Bekasi alone, five churches have been sealed or demolished since 2005, according to church leaders. By SP/Mikael Niman, Jakarta Globe