Medan. An Indonesian court on Wednesday jailed 14 Muslim Rohingya men from Myanmar for nine months each for bludgeoning eight Buddhists from their country to death in an Indonesian detention center.
The Rohingya asylum-seekers in April killed the Buddhist men, who had been detained for illegally fishing in Indonesian waters, as sectarian tensions in their home country flared.
The Rohingyas, aged 18 to 37, accused the fishermen of sexually harassing two Rohingya women and said the Buddhists started the violence in the detention center, in the port town of Belawan near Medan city on Sumatra island.
“The defendants have been proven legally and convincingly guilty of working together to blatantly carry out violence, which resulted in the loss of human lives,” chief judge Aksir told the Medan district court.
“We sentenced them to nine months in prison,” he said.
The sentence was lighter than the two-year term sought by prosecutors and the maximum penalty for violence resulting in death, which is 12 years.
The men, along with 100 Indonesian Muslim supporters, chanted “Allahu Akbar” (God is greater) in the court room after the light sentences were handed down.
According to court documents, a fisherman had tried to stab one of the Rohingya men, who retaliated by hitting him with a broomstick.
A mass fight broke out and eight Myanmar Buddhists were found dead and bloodied when the police arrived at the scene.
Three minors suspected to be involved in the attack were freed in July due to lack of evidence.
The attack underscored the soaring Buddhist–Muslim tensions that have overshadowed political reforms in Myanmar.
The men’s lawyer, Mahmud Irsyad Lubis, said the men would appeal for freedom.
“They said they wanted freedom because there was no real evidence shown during the trial that they committed a violent attack,” he told reporters.
In a separate case in Jakarta, an Indonesian on trial for a foiled scheme to bomb the Myanmar embassy confessed on Thursday to being the mastermind of the plot, saying he was “still at war” with anyone oppressing Muslims.
Sigit Indrajid, 23, testified that he led a group of Islamic extremists that planned the attack to avenge the harsh treatment of Rohingya in Myanmar.