Indonesia frees head of Laskar Jihad
Jaffar Umar Thalib, the radical Muslim head of the paramilitary group Laskar Jihad, was acquitted by an Indonesian court today on charges of inciting Muslims to attack Christians. Judge Mansur Nasution said the prosecution didn't prove its case, though there was evidence that he told his followers "to prepare our bombs and ready our guns" two days before they killed 13 people in the Christian village of Soya.

"The real mistake was in not charging him with some of the really serious acts of violence of Laskar Jihad," Sidney Jones, director of the International Crisis Group, tells The New York Times. "Thousands of his followers were perpetrating violence against Christians from early 2000 to early 2002. We're talking about thousands of people killed by both sides in the Malukus." Reliable estimates put the death toll above 5,000.

"The verdict could give renewed vigor to Islamic radicals who have been on the defensive in Indonesia since the terrorist blast in Bali last October," the Times reports.

"The lack of resolve at this time is probably all the worse because of the situation in Iraq," Ken Conboy, head of security risk company RMA Indonesia, told Reuters. "So with his acquittal, that is probably sending all the wrong messages."

The acquittal is even more unjust than it seems. Only two days ago, two Christian leaders were sentenced to three years imprisonment merely for campaigning for an independent state in the Malukus—something they say is needed because the Indonesian government is not protecting them from attacks by Laskar Jihad.

Alex Manuputty, who was tried in absentia, told the Associated Press he would "resist the verdict in a nonviolent way." But Jafar Umar Thalib says Manuputty's ...

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