Judges Declare a Three-year Sentence to an Indonesian Pastor

Jun 18, 2003 08:41 AM EDT

Judges have declared Rinaldy Daminik guilty of possessio of illegal weapons and announced a three-year sentence, according to Compass Direct report on 17.

Judges convicted him despite the evidence of witness intimidation and abuse. So Damanik and his defense team will have a week to decide whether they will accept the sentence or appeal the judge's decision.

Damanik is already in custody and the judges have considered a sentence reduction to two years and four months.

Damanik was a main member of the Central Sulwesi Christian Church(GKST). He worked in the Crisis Center assisting Christian and Muslim refugees in Poso area.

He garnered animonisty from the local officials when he signed the controversial Malino Peace Accord at the end of 2001.

Malino Peace Accord was a peace convention between Christianity and Islam. 35 Christian leaders and 35 Muslim leaders attended the convention, adopting the idea of humanitarian work rather than war in Indonesia. From 1999 to 2001, just until the peace accord was held, more than ten thousand people died as a result of the conflict between the two religions. Nevertheless, the conflict has not been abolished. The accord has had limited success.

Damanik was traveling in a relief convoy in 2002 and the police stopped him for questions. Next day, he was arrested because ilegal weapons were found in the vehicle.

A legal expert, professor J. E. Sahetapy, and significant witnesses for the defense say the police infringed a legal procedure by searching the vehicle without a warrant. Moreover the police had not arrested Damanik after the alleged discovery of the weapons. "Even if the weapons were found in his vehicle, the result of the police's illegal searh must be disregarded by the court," Sahetapy said.

Damanik has never changed his mind for peace in the troubled area of Poso. On June 2, the Christian village of Kapompa was attacked, one man killed and another seriously injured. Damanik also appealed to this attack, asking people of Tentena not to retaliate against the Muslim neighbors.

A source who had spoken to Damanik received a plea asking Christians to pray for him and his defense team.

By Young Sun Lee
[email protected]