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Mob burns down courthouse after priest sentenced LARANTUKA - Thousands of local residents set ablaze a district courthouse on Flores Island on Saturday, shortly after a judge declared guilty a local Catholic leader in a defamation case. The angry mob also set fire to several buildings belonging to the Larantuka Prosecutor's Office. No fatalities were reported in the incident. The incident began when thousands of residents of Larantuka, the capital of the predominantly Catholic East Flores regency, attended a trial against Father Frans Amanuen, a local charismatic priest.
Amanuen was taken to court after he accused Felix Fernandez, East Flores regent, of being involved in marking up the price of a multipurpose boat, which was purchased for the local government. The boat is said to be worth Rp 3 billion (US$352,941). In a local publication, Amanuen lashed out at the regent, saying that the regent had only enriched himself in the purchase of the boat. Regent Felix Fernandez expressed his displeasure over comments made by the Catholic priest, and sued the outspoken priest for libel.
Presiding judge I Wayan Suparta sentenced the priest to two months' imprisonment and five months' probation. This means Amanuen will remain free unless he commits a crime within the five-month probationary period. His supporters, however, were angered by the verdict, and went on a rampage. "(His supporters) were calm during the court session, but became violent after the judge handed down the sentence to Father Amanuen," East Nusa Tenggara Police chief Brig. Gen. Edward Aritonang told The Jakarta Post.
The angry mob quickly set ablaze the courthouse and also buildings of the prosecutor's office. "The court was completely engulfed by the fire," Ersa Wowor, a local resident, was quoted as saying by DPA news agency. The dozens of police guarding the trial were unable to block the mob from setting the court on fire, and so moved to protect the judges and prosecutors. Aritonang said the provincial police force had immediately deployed reinforcements to the area to keep the incident from escalating.
Similar cases of arson involving courts have occurred in Indonesia, including a 1985 case in Lubuk Pakam, Sumatra. However, the attack in Larantuka is thought to have greater repercussions as it has sectarian implications. Larantuka was last rocked by sectarian violence in 1995, when an angry mob killed Taman, 47, a resident of Banyuwangi, East Java, at the Reinha Rosario Cathedral. Taman, who was a Protestant, was accused of insulting the church during a sermon.
According to the 2000 census by the Central Statistics Agency, 154,903 out of the 199,586-strong population of East Flores are Catholic. As of Saturday, police were still standing guard at vital government facilities, including the residence of regent Felix Fernandez.



Posted in Violence @ 16 November 2003 00:01 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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