Indonesia: Terrorist who made bombs for church attacks jailed *Order for demolition of 20 churches

June 28, 2012 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

Indonesia, June 27, 2012: A former “most wanted” terrorist who made the explosives to blow up several Indonesian churches as part of a major anti-Christian attack in 2000 has been jailed for 20 years.

Umar Patek was sentenced last Thursday (21 June), having been found guilty of six charges including murder, bomb-making and terrorism offences in relation to two incidents.

The first was coordinated attacks on several churches in Jakarta on Christmas Eve in 2000, part of a major assault on 25 churches in eleven cities by militants from Islamist group Jemaah Islamiyah; around 19 people, mostly Christians attending services, were killed.

Patek was also convicted of making explosives that were used in the Bali bombings that killed 202 people, mostly foreigners, in 2002; the 45-year-old was found guilty of mixing the 700kg bomb that blew up two nightclubs on the Indonesian island.

The court heard how he had first used his bomb-making skills in 2000 when Imam Samudra, mastermind of the Bali bombings, asked him to make explosives for the church attacks. Samudra later asked Patek to help kill foreigners in Bali by making the explosives for that atrocity.

Eddy Setiono, who is serving a life sentence for terror offences, told the court that he drove a car to several churches on Christmas Eve 2000 while Patek “set up” bombs, which were disguised as gifts, in the back seat. The bombs were delivered to churches and ministers.

Christians in Indonesia suffered a merciless Islamic onslaught between 1999 and 2002 that claimed more than 6,000 lives.

Patek was once the most-wanted terror suspect in Indonesia; he spent nearly a decade on the run before being discovered in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad several months before Osama bin Laden was killed in the same town.

The Indonesian was the last key suspect to be tried in relation to the Bali bombings; the others have either been executed, killed in police raids or are now serving life sentences.

Prosecutors had asked the court to lock up Patek for life but he was given a more lenient sentence because he was said to have cooperated with the police, and also made a public apology to the victims’ families, Christians and the government.

– barnabas team

Order for demolition of 20 churches in Indonesian province


Indonesia, June 20, 2012: The authorities have ordered 20 churches in an Indonesian district to tear down their buildings; this follows the closure of 16 smaller Christian places of worship in the same district last month.

Razali Abdul Rahman, the acting regent of Aceh Singkil in the semi-autonomous province of Aceh, ordered the church closures in a letter signed on 30 April, setting a deadline of 8 June for demolition.

Veryanto Sitohang of human rights group the United North Sumatra Alliance said on Tuesday 12 June:

The local administration says that if the church members refuse to comply, the administration itself will demolish the buildings. The deadline for the demolition was June 8. It has been a few days since the deadline, but nothing has happened so far.

The order was issued on the same day that hard line Islamist groups including the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) staged a protest in front of his office against Christian places of worship in Aceh Singkil.

The authorities also sealed off 16 undung-undung, which are small buildings not officially classified as churches, in the district in the week after the protest, though Mr Razali claimed that his administration had acted independently of the groups’ demands. Undung-undung are distinct from churches in that they are non-denominational and have no cross.

The FPI alleged that the number of churches and undung-undung violated agreements signed in 1979 and 2001 by Muslim and Christian leaders. These stated that Christians were allowed only one church and four undung-undung in the regency.

Erde Barutu, minister of one of the threatened churches, the Pakpak Dairi Christian Protestant Church, said that church officials had only signed the documents because they were under threat. He added that the number of Christians living in Aceh Singkil had increased significantly since 1979, and was now more than 15,000. The closures would leave only two churches in the district.

The congregations of most of the 20 buildings threatened with demolition are continuing to hold services inside their sealed off buildings with some members standing guard outside.

Church officials have written to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, government departments and the police to protest against the closures.

Home Minister Gamawan Fauzi said that he was not aware of the closure plans and would contact Mr Razali to ask for clarification, saying that citizens had a right to worship as long as they complied with regulations.

He said:

The majority shouldn’t force their views on the minority. Tolerance should continue to exist.

Elements of sharia are enforced by special religious police in Aceh, which gained a measure of autonomy from the national government in 2001 following a prolonged Islamist insurgency.

– barnabas team

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