Bandung. A group of West Java residents who admitted vandalizing an Ahmadiyah mosque last week have been charged with an offense that could land them in prison for up to five and a half years.
Cianjur Police Chief Agus Tri Heriyanto said the 20 residents of the district gave themselves up to police because they believed they were acting legitimately after Ahmadis in their village of Cisaar breached an agreement signed by the sect’s leadership.
“The locals considered that Jemaat Ahmadiyah Indonesia had breached an agreement the JAI had signed,” Agus said on Friday, referring to a document issued last year by the Coordinating Board for Monitoring Mystical Beliefs in Society (Bakor Pakem) and signed by JAI leadership, in which Agus said JAI agreed not to conduct group prayers, including Friday prayers.
“But the Ahmadiyah congregation broke that agreement, arousing the anger of the local community. This is despite locals having warned [the Ahmadis] as many as four times,” the police chief said.
Agus said the alleged vandals also considered the Ahmadis to have breached a 2008 decree signed by the attorney general and the ministers for religious affairs and home affairs.
That decision purports to ban any activities deviating from officially recognized religions, and it specifically bans Ahmadis from recognizing a second prophet, a key element of the sect’s beliefs that sets it apart from other Muslim groups.
Agus said that despite some initial reports to the contrary, all of the people charged were Cisaar villagers.
“They’re all locals. So this is a community action, with no provocation from mass organizations whatsoever,” he insisted.
Agus said the people who had owned up to the attack would be charged with a mob violence clause from the Criminal Code, although they would not be detained. “They have local leaders vouching for them. The suspects are only required to report to police regularly,” he said.
Despite charging the 20, Agus said police would continue to investigate the attack by interviewing witnesses and collecting evidence.
Police apparently had warning of the attack, the latest in a string of violence against the Ahmadiyah minority, on the Arrohim Mosque that occurred on Feb. 17.
They had stationed several officers outside the building and reportedly warned the congregation not to worship that day.
But the police on guard failed to deter the attack by an estimated 50 to 100 people who ransacked the mosque, severely damaging its roof and windows.
Agus said police had been maintaining a security presence in the village since the attack.