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 Tuesday, 28 January, 2003, 19:21 GMT
Moluccan Christian leaders sentenced
Clashes in Ambon in 1999
Clashes have killed over 5,000 people since 1999
Two Christian leaders have been sentenced to three years in jail by an Indonesian court for subversion in the country's restive Moluccan islands.

Alex Manuputty, 55, and Samuel Waileruny, 45, were on trial in absentia in Indonesia's capital, Jakarta, for campaigning for an independent state in the Moluccans.

More than 5,000 people have been killed in sectarian fighting in the Moluccans since January 1999.

Muslims and Christians signed a peace deal last February but sporadic violence still occurs.

A Muslim leader in the province, Ja'afar Umar Thalib, is due to be sentenced by another Jakarta court on Thursday for inciting violence on the islands.

Appeal

Lawyers for Manuputty and Waileruny said their clients would appeal the sentence, protesting that the trial should have been postponed because the two men were not present.

Manuputty and Waileruny were released from detention in December and have returned home to Ambon, the Moluccan capital.

Smoke rises over Ambon
Muslims and Christians are segregated in troubled Ambon

They were arrested last April after encouraging their followers to hoist banned separatist flags.

Manuputty leads the Maluku Sovereignty Front, which campaigns for a referendum on self-determination.

The group is thought to have about 100 followers.

It was not clear whether the two defendants would remain free pending their appeal.

Manuputty told Associated Press news agency that he would not give himself up to the authorities.

I will resist the verdict in a non-violent way

Alex Manuputty

"I will resist the verdict in a non-violent way," he said.

The trial has been seen as an attempt by Jakarta to hold Muslims and Christians equally to account for the violence in the province.

Indonesia is predominantly Muslim, but in the Moluccans Christians account for about 50% of the population.



See also:

10 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
09 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
09 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
04 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
28 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
28 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
12 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
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