The Islamic Defenders Front, a hard-line Muslim group, stormed the Bogor District Court on Thursday after the court began hearing a case against a teenager accused of killing a member of the group.
The court had earlier planned to stage a closed hearing, arguing that the suspect was only aged 17 and considered a minor.
But the decision sparked outrage from some 50 members of the group, known as the FPI, and its militant wing, the Islamic Defenders Force (LPI), who came to watch the proceedings.
The mob forced its way into the court while some 75 police officers deployed to guard the session did little to stop it.
Syakilah, the presiding judge, was forced to adjourn the hearing several times after members of the group shouted and chanted praise to Allah while thrusting their fists in the air.
“This case cannot continue to be heard under such noise,” the judge said. “This trial must be calm so witness remarks can be heard clearly and [nothing will] affect the final judgement.”
LPI Bogor coordinator Ickwan Tuanakota said that the Muslim group was not trying to disrupt the trial, and argued that the group was there merely to “safeguard” the proceedings.
“Nobody minded us coming and we promised not to intervene in the trial,” he said. “We are questioning why the trial was not open to the public.”
Lead prosecutor Pungki Hapsari explained that although the suspect was almost of the legal age to be tried as an adult, it would be safer for the teenager if the court conducted a closed hearing.
Pungki said that his concerns were confirmed on Thursday by the hard-line group’s presence.
“It is hard to concentrate, especially when we have to hear witnesses’ testimonies in court,” he said.
The boy is accused of murdering LPI member Mustofa with a machete in South Bogor on May 7. However, he maintains that he acted in self-defense after Mustofa and other LPI members attacked him and his friends.
Prosecutors have charged the suspect with violating Article 351 of the Criminal Code, which relates to murder.
“The maximum sentence is 15 years but because the boy is a minor he faces half of that,” Pungki said.
The trial is set to resume on Monday but it is unclear whether the session will be open to the public or closed.