(CNSNews.com) – Three Indonesian women sentenced to prison for the “Christianization” of Muslim children have lost their appeal, and observers of the courtroom drama blame Muslim extremists who threatened to kill the judges if they didn’t hand down a guilty verdict….
The controversy began on May 13 when medical doctor Rebekkah Zakaria and two of her friends were arrested and charged with “Christianization” of several Muslim children who attended their “Happy Week” Sunday school class.
The Muslim children were required to get permission from their parents to attend the class, and those without permission were sent home, according to the women’s attorney, Posma Radjaguguk.
The charges were brought by a government-funded council of Muslim clerics. According to the U.S. State Department, the women were charged after community members complained that free pencil boxes and T-shirts were given to the children.
When the trial began on June 30, truckloads of jihadists thronged the district court of Indramayu demanding that Zakaria and her two co-defendants be killed. They reportedly brought coffins to the courthouse to underscore the threat.
“Hang them! Hang them! Hang Rebekkah!” the crowd shouted.
“If Rebekkah asks forgiveness and enters Islam, will you forgive her?” a protest leader asked while shouting through a megaphone.
“No! No! Punish her! Kill Rebekkah! Hang her!” the crowd responded….
On Sept. 1, the three-judge panel declared the women guilty and sentenced them to three years in prison. The courtroom erupted with loud shouts of “Allahu Akbar!” (Allah is Great).
Zakaria along with Mrs Eti Pangesti and Mrs. Ratna Bangun were charged under the controversial Child Protection Act, ratified in 2002. The act forbids the coercion of minors to change their religion. Those convicted face five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Critics consider the act a violation of the Indonesian Constitution, which provides for “all persons the right to worship, according to his or her own religion or belief.”
As evidence of “coercion,” the prosecutor at the trial presented six church T-shirts. The defendants had given the T-shirts to all 100 children they were taking on a field trip to “Sea World” in Jakarta, including six Muslim children.
The women said they thought having the children wear same-colored shirts would make it easier to keep track of them.
The prosecutor also brought forward children singing as “evidence.” The children who had attended “Happy Week” were asked to sing the songs they learned in the class.
When one child sang “Jesus is the vine, we are the branches,” Muslims in the courtroom again demanded that the women be killed, according to witnesses and video provided to Cybercast News Service by VOM.
On Nov. 30, the women lost their appeal. “For supporters, this was really distressing,” said Jim Jacobson, president of Christian Freedom International. “Either the court was intimidated or something else happened.” The women have one appeal left.