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Court told to be firm on rowdiness, intimidating visitors
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
The Constitutional Court must be firm on members of hard-line Islamic groups who intimidated petitioners of the blasphemy law judicial review by issuing threats and shouting religious slogans during hearing sessions, activists said Tuesday.
“There were threats against [the supporters of the review] outside the courtroom,” M. Choirul Anam, a lawyer for petitioners, told The Jakarta Post. “While protests in the courtroom were intimidating.”
Anam said the hard-liners, mostly from the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), who opposed the rights activists’ move, continually attended hearings and often yelled at those testifying in support of the judicial review, calling them “infidels” and telling them to “repent”.
“The court has the authority to take strict action against these people,” he said. “It has the authority to expel them from the courtroom.”
A number of activists and self-proclaimed supporters of pluralism filed the request for a judicial review of the 1965 blasphemy law last year.
The move was mainly triggered by the government banning of the Ahmadiyah group, regarded by mainstream Muslims as heretical.
The law’s articles in scrutiny stipulate the government’s authority to dissolve religious groups whose beliefs and practices are deemed as blasphemous by religious authorities such as the Religious Affairs Ministry and the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI).
According to petitioners, the law was discriminatory of certain religious groups, which have been denied their right to worship according to their beliefs.
Anam said the Court was firm in its approach at the first session of the hearings, with Court chief Mahfud M.D. asking loud visitors, dominated by FPI members, to quieten.
“But the Court has not been as firm of late,” he said. “We suspect that the judges are intimidated by the protestors in the courtroom.”
Choirul said activists were apprehensive the Court could not issue a fair ruling because judges were intimidated.
Hearing sessions on the blasphemy law at the Constitutional Court have often been rife with cacophony from the gallery.
Ulil Abshar Abdalla, an expert supporting the review, reportedly received death threats from the gallery at Court.
Mahendradatta of Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, an Islamic group opposing the review, dismissed the belief that the Court’s ruling would be influenced by intimidation from visitors.
“The Court will not be intimidated,” he said.
He insisted that the actions of protesters at the Court had not breached misconduct.
“It is tolerable. The judges have not had to expel anyone from the courtroom.”