Imprisoned Indonesian Christian minister could be released in November

Three years is a long period of time, especially to those who are imprisoned by false charges; it is such a long waiting process to gain freedom again. Today good news finally came from Indonesia, it was announced that Reverend Rinaldy Damanik, 45, could be released on parole as early as November 2004, after three years of waiting...

According to CSW, Rev Damanik was head of the Crisis Centre of Central Sulawesi and was responsible for informing the international community of the attacks and human rights violations. He was stopped by police in Peleru in Sulawesi while attempting to evacuate to safety Christians under attack from militants on August 17 2002.

The police alleged that they seized 14 weapons and ammunition from his car, however he was not arrested at the time nor informed of such a discovery. Later a warrant for his arrest was issued on August 22. He was arrested on September 9 2002 in Jakarta and finally charged with violation of emergency law (prohibition of owning and controlling weapons or ammunition without permission), June 2003.

Although many of the testimonies from the police and military witnesses were contradictory and eyewitnesses admitted to being intimidated and abused, still he was sentenced to three years imprisonment and the verdict was upheld despite several appeals.

Today Reverend Damanik was notified by the Ministry of Justice that his release was in process, he told CSW that he feels his possible early release is a miracle and is thankful for the prayers of so many people around the world. He gave special thanks to a respected Muslim cleric, Idrus Al Habsy, who provided him with a character reference which was instrumental in securing his early release.

Indonesia is the biggest Muslim country in the world, with more than 90% of the population Muslim, it has been important to work closely with Muslims and Christians to promote the peace process.

Rev Damanik was testified by CSW as a key supporter of the peace and reconciliation process. Whilst the Indonesian government in general is predominantly moderate and religious tolerance prevails, Rev Damanik's sentence regrettably highlights the gross difference in standards of justice given to members of different religious communities.