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Assaulted Aceh Preacher Faces Defamation Charge

Banda Aceh, TAG - After freeing his attackers on bail, police in Aceh’s Pidie district have charged a preacher with defamation for his anti-corruption and pro-peace comments.

Saiful Bahri used his Friday khutbah sermon at Keumala Grand Mosque on Sept. 9 to speak out against election violence and self-enrichment allegedly committed by local politicians and former members of the disbanded Free Aceh Movement (GAM).

His lecture angered some of the 200-odd worshippers at the mosque, and Saiful was pulled from the podium and beaten.

Four of Saiful’s alleged attackers were declared suspects, including Zulkifli, Mukhtaruddin, Sabirin and Ilyas. All four are former GAM fighters. Police arrested Zulkifli and Mukhtaruddin, who were later released on bail, while Sabirin is still being sought for questioning.

Pidie Police chief Dumadi said that although police were still preparing the case against Saiful’s attackers, a counter-complaint has forced them to declare the preacher a suspect, too.

“Saiful was questioned as a suspect on Monday, but he was not put in custody because the criminal code clauses with which he was charged were not of a serious criminal nature,” Dumadi said.

He said the crimes carried a maximum sentence of nine months imprisonment.
“He [Saiful] insulted and defamed the people who then attacked him. This included an executive of the Aceh Party, who felt insulted at the contents of Saiful’s khutbah sermon,” Dumadi said.

The police chief said he hoped the case would not be politicized because “the police had already worked professionally” in declaring Saiful a suspect based on a public complaint. Saiful had requested that he be questioned in order for the case to be dealt with quickly, Dumaidi said.

Muzakar, a member of the Muslim Defenders Team (TPM) Aceh acting as Saiful’s legal advisor, said he felt that his client’s status as a suspect “is strange and smacks of interference.”

“Our client was only giving a sermon, and he became a victim of assault. Yet the police instead decide he’s a suspect. This is very naive,” Muzakar said.

“His message was simply religious advice.”[]
Assaulted Aceh Preacher Faces Defamation Charge Assaulted Aceh Preacher Faces Defamation Charge Reviewed by Nurdin Hasan on November 17, 2011 Rating: 5

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