By BosNewsLife News Center
JAKARTA, INDONESIA (BosNewsLife) — Seventeen Christians charged under Indonesiaâ€™s controversial anti-terror laws still faced an uncertain future Tuesday, June 26, just days after prosecutors demanded 15-to 20-year prison sentences.
The believers were allegedly part of a violent group killing a Muslim fishmonger and his assistant in the Poso region of Sulawesi island, a Christian pocket of predominantly Muslim Indonesia.
Last year thousands protested against executions of three alleged militiamen, convicted of leading a mob that killed hundreds of Muslims in a boarding school in 2000. Human rights groups and church leaders however questioned the evidence and said the sentencing was unjust.
Prosecutor Totok Bambang reportedly said that 12 Christians of the group currently facing trial "beat the victims with bare hands as well as timber sticks, vandalized their car and shoved it into a sewer which led to their death". Bambang added the other five were involved in the disposal of the bodies, Reuters news agency reported.
CLOSING HOUSE CHURCHES
The latest trial in predominantly Muslim Indonesia comes amid reports that Muslim militants have hreatened to close house churches in West Java amid growing tensions. In one of the latest incidents this month a pastor said Muslims stormed his church during services, smashing images of Jesus Christ and demanding it be closed down.
The attack was the second on the Protestant church in the West Java town of Soreang since 2005, news reports said. Reverend Robby Elisa said about 100 people attacked the church while Sunday school was in session, adding that his wife and a teenager were beaten.
The Alliance of Anti-Apostasy Movements reportedly claimed responsibility and said the house is illegally being used as a place of worship. The Jakarta Post said over 30 churches have closed their doors in West Java since 2004 because of attacks by Muslim hardliners.
There has been concern the incidents, and the ongoing trial against Christians on charges of alleged terrorism, could lead to a repeat of widespread violence between religious groups.
Over 2,000 people were killed during the peak of the violence from late 1998 until a peace accord between Muslim and Christian communities took effect in late 2001.
Around 85 percent of Indonesia's 220 million people follow Islam, but in some areas in the country's east like Poso there are roughly equal numbers of Muslims and Christians, according to observers and official estimates. (With BosNewsLife Monitoring).
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