It also begs the question as to why it took eight years — the length of time she has been practicing — for her to be declared a heretic by the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) and the Ministry of Religious Affairs.
Noted criminologist with the University of Indonesia, Adrianus Meliala, acknowledged that the police had the right to charge Lia with religious blasphemy as stipulated in the Criminal Code, due to “public unrest” over the group’s presence by neighbors.
“But I question the police’s inconsistency in such religious blasphemy cases. They detained Lia soon after the unrest emerged, but no leaders of Ahmadiyah have been charged, although their teachings have been declared heretical,” he told The Jakarta Post over the weekend.
Agreeing with Adrianus was noted legal expert from the University of Indonesia, Luhut M. Pangaribuan, who said that police should seek out the opinions Islamic experts to be able to determine whether Lia, for instance, was indeed a heretic or not.
“They should get a balanced opinion to prove that Lia has been blasphemous,” he told the Post.
Lia, who claims to be the Holy Spirit and also God’s messenger Gabriel, was evacuated along with her followers on Dec. 28 from their headquarters on Jl. Mahoni No. 30 in the Bungur neighborhood in Senen, Central Jakarta. They were safely escorted to the city police headquarters after thousands of locals surrounded their house of worship.
Jakarta Police then declared Lia on Dec. 30 as the sole suspect in a religious defamation case, and detained her subsequently.
Her followers were released.
Police also announced that the sect members could not go back to their headquarters because the residents and local administration had decided that the group had “disturbed the neighborhood”.
Police said that they had charged Lia under Article 156a of Criminal Code on religious defamation, which carries a maximum punishment of five years in prison.
Attorney General Abdul Rahman Saleh also insisted on prosecuting the group, and stated that it was in adherence to MUI’s edict.
“Actually, legal institutions don’t have the right to say whether this or that teaching is heresy … But we have to uphold public order and work against those who create social disturbances,” he said after the police named Lia a suspect.
Last June, police also evacuated members of Ahmadiyah from their headquarters in Parung in Bogor, after thousands of Islamic extremists attacked them.
Police only questioned a handful of Ahmadiyah members, and then released them. No further legal action has been taken.
“If they released all Ahmadiyah members, then they should release Lia as the police applied the same charges to them. I guess the police have discriminated against Lia as she only has a small group of followers while Ahmadiyah has many,” Adrianus said.
Ahmadiyah has hundreds of thousands of devotees across the country while Lia has only 48, and 13 of them are children.
Adrianus said the inconsistency had sent a confusing message to public, and it could undermine law enforcement in Indonesia.
“I don’t Lia and her small number of followers are a threat at all. They actually represent a form of pluralism, so we should leave them alone. They’ve never intimidated or forced anything on people, have they?”
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