JAKARTA: The chief of a violent extremist vigilante group has gone on trial with 12 others over an armed assault on Christian elders, a report said Thursday, in a case that has raised fears for pluralism in Indonesia.
Murhali Barda, head of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) in the Jakarta suburb of Bekasi “provoked the attack” against priest Luspida Simanjuntak and Christian elder Asia Sihombing, prosecutor Priorenta was quoted as saying by the Jakarta Globe newspaper.
Simanjuntak was beaten with a stick and Sihombing stabbed as they were on their way to a service in September in Bekasi, the report said.
The FPI is known for its cosy relations with government officials and its armed attacks on moderates and minorities.
In separate trials, Barda’s 12 alleged accomplices face charges including committing violence against others, unpleasant conduct and provocation.
80 per cent of Indonesia’s 240 million people are Muslims but the country’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion.
Human rights groups say religious violence has been on the rise in recent months, mainly by Muslims against minority groups including Christians.
The governing coalition, which includes Islamic parties, has failed to crack down on several violent extremist vigilante groups which take the law into their own hands with almost total impunity.