Firebrand cleric Habib Bahar bin Smith sentenced to 3 years in prison for assaulting minors

Firebrand cleric Habib Bahar bin Smith kneeing a teenager in the face in a viral video that was used as evidence for his conviction for assault on minors. Photo: Screengrab from Youtube
Firebrand cleric Habib Bahar bin Smith kneeing a teenager in the face in a viral video that was used as evidence for his conviction for assault on minors. Photo: Screengrab from Youtube

The Bandung District Court today sentenced highly controversial cleric Habib Bahar bin Smith to three years in prison for assaulting two minors last year, footage of which went viral online.

“The defendant is sentenced with three years imprisonment and a fine of IDR50 million (US$3,540) in lieu of an additional month in prison,” Judge Edison Muhamad said during the sentence hearing today, as quoted by Detik.

Edison said Smith was guilty of assault under Indonesia’s Criminal Code (KUHP) and violating child protection laws.

Smith’s sentence is half of the six years previously demanded by prosecutors.

According to the police, Smith assaulted the two boys, aged 17 and 18, in Bogor regency on Dec 1. Video footage of the assault went viral and was used as evidence against Smith. It shows him striking the boys, including using his knee, while they looked like they were being forced to take the beating and unable to retaliate.

The beating, which took place at a pesantren (religious boarding school) run by Smith, was reportedly punishment for the boys for supposedly impersonating Smith and his friend a few days prior.

Before his arrest last December, Smith was the subject of a huge controversy after he made sexist, racist and transphobic remarks about President Joko Widodo. He was named a hate speech suspect for defaming the president then, but that case appears to have gone nowhere.

Smith, 33, is the founder of a hardline group called the Prophet’s Defender Council. The group has been in the news numerous times over the years for conducting raids and forcing the closure of entertainment spots during Ramadan, as well as attacking minority religious groups.

He is also highly involved with other hardline groups and firebrand clerics, such as Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) founder Rizieq Shihab, who is currently in self-imposed exile in Saudi Arabia escaping his own criminal charges in Indonesia. During Smith’s sentencing hearing today, a crowd of his supporters gathered outside the courthouse demanding his freedom and for charges against Rizieq to be dropped so that he could return to Indonesia.

Smith and his attorneys have yet to decide if they want to appeal the sentence. 

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