- (Photo: AP/Slamet Riyadi)
Indonesia has given 17 men prison sentences of up to five months for burning churches and attacking police officers, Thursday.
The offences were carried out in February when 1,500 Muslim militants attacked and set on fire two churches, as well as ransacking a third in Temanggung, Java.
The mob was furious that a Christian man had not been given the death penalty in a court appearance for insulting Islam.
In the ferocious attack that ensued a police vehicle was set on fire, and police officers were attacked with stones. The mob was fought back using tear gas, however, police were unable to stop the devastating attacks on three local churches.
On Thursday the Semarang district court found 17 Islamic extremists guilty of the violence, with 16 sentenced to five months in prison, and one other given just four months.
The sentences were reduced from the 10 months prosecutors had requested as the defendants were found to have been co-operative throughout the trial process.
According to AFP one of the judges said, “They are legally and convincingly proven guilty in destroying public properties and carrying out assault.”
Next week a further nine defendants being charged for the attacks will hear their verdicts.
Tensions between various religious groups in the country have been escalating throughout the year.
In April, Indonesian police foiled an Islamic extremists’ plan to bomb a church ahead of Easter celebrations in Serpong, just outside of the Indonesian capital of Jakarta.
Authorities discovered about 150 kg (3330 pounds) of explosives not far from Christ Cathedral Church. Bombs were found beneath a gas pipeline and in bags near the church entrance. Police were able to safely diffuse the explosives.
The militant cell had planned to detonate the explosives remotely using a mobile phone at 9 a.m. on Good Friday, just when service at the 3,000-seat Catholic church would begin.
Authorities were led to the bombs’ location after arresting 19 suspects in alleged connection to a suicide bombing in West Java, and parcel bombs mailed to advocates for religious pluralism.