JAKARTA (Reuters) - Five Muslim militants charged with involvement in a string of deadly attacks against Christians in Indonesia’s restive Central Sulawesi province went on trial on Monday under the country’s anti-terrorism laws.
Prosecutors said the attacks included the assassination of a Protestant minister, the beheading of three Christian schoolgirls in the Poso district of Sulawesi and a bomb attack on a market that killed one passerby.
Under Indonesia’s anti-terrorism law, the defendants could face the death penalty.
Poso was the scene of Muslim-Christian fighting between 1998 and 2001 that left more than 2,000 people dead.
A peace accord took effect in 2001, but there has been sporadic violence since and prosecutions against those involved have been rare.
The five defendants, who were arrested earlier this year, were tried in four separate court sessions at the South Jakarta district court.
The group includes Muhammad Basri and Adrin Djanatu, who police believe were the leaders of a local group allegedly linked to the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) regional militant network.
JI is blamed for a string of bomb attacks in Indonesia, including the 2002 Bali bombings that killed more than 200 people.
State prosecutor Narendra Jadnya said at Basri’s court hearing that the attacks involving the defendants over the past three years were intended to harm Christians.
A defence lawyer representing the five made no comment. The trial was adjourned until next week.
Around 85 percent of Indonesia’s 220 million people are Muslim, but in some areas in the country’s east, such as Poso, there are roughly equal numbers of Muslims and Christians.