Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Indonesia: Islamic Mob Burns Churches, Attack Police

JAKARTA: Hundreds of Islamic hard-liners stormed a courthouse and set two churches on fire Tuesday in central Indonesia to protest what they considered a lenient sentence for a Christian convicted of blaspheming Islam.

Antonius Richmond Bawengan, 58, was found guilty of distributing books and leaflets that “spread hatred about Islam” and sentenced to five years for blasphemy.

Islamic hard-liners shouted during the rioting that the man should have received the death penalty. Anti-riot police fired into the air to disperse the crowd.

The violence started in front of the District Court in Temanggung where the trial was held and spread to surrounding neighborhoods, police spokesman Col. Djahartono said.

Witnesses said at least nine people were rushed to the hospital with injuries and police led away some protesters for questioning.

The mob set two churches on fire and threw rocks at a third and a school building. They also torched a police truck, three cars and six motorcycles. Calm was restored about four hours later.

A priest in Temanggung saw his church being burned, the windows trashed by the mob, said Windyatmoko Bernardus, a Catholic priest in a nearby town who is a member of the same order.