Medan, Indonesia — A court in Indonesia jailed 14 Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar for nine months each for the killing of eight Buddhists from their country in an Indonesian detention center.
The incident occurred in April when the Rohingya asylum-seekers bludgeoned to death the Buddhists, who were detained for illegally fishing in Indonesian waters, as sectarian tensions between the groups in Myanmar exploded into violence.
The Rohingyas, aged 18 to 37, accused the Buddhists of sexually harassing two Rohingya women and claimed the fishermen started the violence in the detention center in the town of Belawan on Sumatra Island.
“The defendants have been proven legally and convincingly guilty of working together to blatantly carry out violence, which resulted in the loss of human lives,” said chief judge Aksir in the Medan district court.
“We sentenced them to nine months in prison,” he said.
The prosecutors had sought a two-year sentence. The maximum penalty for violence resulting in death is 12 years.
The 14 Rohingyas, along with 100 Indonesian Muslim supporters, chanted “Allahu Akbar” (God is greater) in the court room after the light sentences were handed down, according to reports.
The clash started when a Buddhist fisherman tried to stab one of the Rohingya men, who then hit him with a broomstick, according to court documents.
A mass fight broke out, and when police arrived they found eight Myanmar Buddhists bloodied and dead.
There were also three minors suspected to have been involved, but they were freed in July due to lack of evidence.
The Rohingyas’ lawyer said they would appeal for freedom.
“They said they wanted freedom because there was no real evidence shown during the trial that they committed a violent attack,” the lawyer told reporters.
Recent outbreaks of violence between Myanmar’s Buddhist majority and the Rohingya Muslims have left hundreds dead and overshadowed the country’s political reforms.