Activists File Lawsuit Against Bogor Mayor Over Shiite Holiday Ban


NOVEMBER 23, 2015

Jakarta. Activists in the Jakarta satellite city of Bogor have filed suit against Mayor Bima Arya Sugiarto for banning public celebrations of the Shiite holy day of Ashura last month.

Sugeng Teguh Santoso, a lawyer with the One Justice Foundation (YKS), one of several civil society organizations filing the lawsuit, said on Monday that the mayor’s order was a clear violation of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to freedom of worship for all Indonesians.

“This lawsuit will be a test case for whether the [courts] can protect the citizens’ rights,” he told the Jakarta Globe after registering the lawsuit with the Bogor District Court.

Bima, who came to office in April 2014 touting a more moderate brand of Islam than his predecessor, Diani Budiarto, riled religious tolerance and human rights activists in October when he barred public celebrations of Ashura, one of the most important holidays in Shiite Islam.

Sugeng said his foundation initially sent two letters to the mayor’s office, the first seeking clarification for the prohibition and the second warning of a possible lawsuit if the order was not repealed.

With the lawsuit now filed, the court will mediate in talks between the two sides in the coming weeks. Only if they fail to reach an agreement will the matter go to trial.

It appears highly unlikely that Bima will back down in light of the lawsuit, given that for more than a year and a half now he has continued to ignore two Supreme Court rulings to unseal a church closed off during Diani’s administration at the behest of Muslim hard-liners.

He also failed to take any action when, this weekend, Sunni hard-liners declared a national anti-Shiite movement at a gathering in Bogor. Bima was originally scheduled to be the keynote speaker at that event, but claimed he ignored an invitation sent by the organizers.

Bogor was earlier this month ranked by a leading think tank as the least tolerant city in Indonesia.