In an open letter to three UN Special Rapporteurs, the Human Rights Working Group-Indonesia decries the unfair legal process against and the criminalization of Rev. Palti Panjaitan of a beleaguered Protestant church in Bekasi, West Java, and increasing religious intolerance in Indonesia.
In a copy of the letter obtained in Jakarta on Thursday, HRWG deputy director Choirul Anam called out what he said was the latest case of criminalization against a victim of religions violence in Indonesia, the case of Palti, the priest and leader of the Huria Kristen Batak Protestan Filadelfia congregation in Bekasi.
“He has been criminalized because he was defending himself from the violent attack perpetrated by intolerant group when he held a mass prayer on 24th December 2012 in Bekasi,” the open letter said.
The letter was sent to Heiner Bielefeldt, the special rapporteur on freedom of religion; Christof Heyns, special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; and Maina Kiai, the special rapporteur of peaceful assembly and association.
The incident took place when an intolerant group came to the HKBP Filadelfia church, which had already been sealed by the local government, and threatened the congregation, it said.
They threw foul water, rotten eggs, animal feces, rocks and soil at members of the congregation. Palti then asked his congregation to disband for safety reasons and ensured that they all went away.
But when he and his wife tried to get on their motorcycle to leave the scene, Abdul Aziz, who led the protest, tried to attack him. Palti got off his motorcycle to protect his wife and stopped the blow with his hand, the letter said.
“Ironically, Palti Panjaitan was reported to the Bekasi city police by Abdul Aziz who claimed he was beaten by Panjaitan,” the letter said, adding that the report was filed later that day.
Following the report, investigators from the Bekasi Police issued a summons to Palti and six other members of the HKBP Filadelfia, on Jan. 28 and Feb. 12.
On March 20, the police declared him a suspect and ordered him to report to police station.
“It cannot be ignored that certain members of the state apparatus have become active actors in the increasing intolerance in Indonesia, by issuing discriminative regulations and making intolerant public statements,” the HRWG letter said.
It added that since 2011, there have been at least four community leaders prosecuted for defending themselves from mobs attacking them for their beliefs.
The letter also named Ahmadi member Deden Sudjana, Jayadi, a member of the lawyer team for the GKI Yasmin church, and Tajul Muluk, a Shiite leader in Sampang, as other persecuted individuals.
“Looking to all these cases, there is a need for the International community to know, and to take action to make Indonesia a better place for the life of religious minorities,” the letter said.