The Supreme Court’s decision to reject Bogor officials’ request to uphold a controversial revocation of a building permit for a Christian group there has been greeted with delight by human rights activists, but caution by both the city administration and the church itself.
The Indonesian Christian Church (GKI Yasmin) has been causing controversy in Bogor by holding its services on the sidewalk in front of its sealed, half-constructed church for months.
The construction site was closed off in March after years of wrangling with the Bogor administration, which originally issued a building permit in 2006, only to revoke it in February 2008. That decision came in the wake of protests from Islamic hard-liners.
The church did not back down and brought the case to State Administrative Courts, both in Jakarta and in Bandung. Both ruled in favor of the church and instructed Bogor authorities to end the closure of the church site. But the city filed a case review and had refused to comply with court orders.
GKI Yasmin celebrated Christmas last month on the sidewalk surrounded by 150 armed police officers and about 100 vociferous protesters from surrounding areas who disapproved of the congregation’s presence.
Bogor officials refused to comment on the court’s decision on Friday. “We are going to discuss it first,” City Secretary Bambang Gunawan said.
Bona Sigalingging, spokesman for GKI Yasmin, said representatives from the church and the Bogor administration had met with a clerk from the Supreme Court to discuss the recent ruling.
“They told us that the city’s request [to uphold the revocation of the building permit] was rejected and a hard copy of the ruling would be distributed within the next week,” he said.
Bona added that the congregation would wait until Jan. 23 before going back to the church site.
“We want to give the government time to announce the ruling to all relevant parties, so that when we finally come back to our church there is no more opposition,” he said.
The Supreme Court’s Web site said the decision on the case was issued on Dec. 9 by a judicial panel composed of Valerine J.L. Kriekhoff, Marina Sidabutar and Imam Soebechi.
Choirul Anam, from the Human Rights Working Group, welcomed the ruling and demanded that the city administration respect it immediately.
“They should provide full protection toward the congregation’s right to worship in peace,” he said. “They will have to announce this intention soon.”
Choirul added that he regarded the Supreme Court ruling as the highest legal decision.
“If they do not obey then they’d better get out of Indonesia,” he added. However, the ruling will not set a precedent for all such cases in the country because it originated as a civil dispute.
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