India puts on trial 436 Indonesians linked to an Islamic meeting amid Covid-19 pandemic

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – More than 400 Indonesian members of Tabligh, a multi-country Muslim missionary movement, were taken to the courts in India over past few days for violating immigration and quarantine policies in the South Asian country.

Malaysia, meanwhile, has brought home from India 62 of its citizens who are members of Tabligh on a chartered flight, after they were freed of similar charges by the Indian authorities.

A Tabligh gathering in Kuala Lumpur between from Feb 27 to March 1 led to the spread of Covid-19 infections in Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Cambodia.

Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry director for citizens protection Judha Nugraha said on Friday (July 17) that 150 Indonesians went on trial on Tuesday, followed by 197 people on Wednesday and 89 people on Thursday.

Mr Judha said the 436 Indonesians, who were stranded in India after attending an Islamic gathering, were accused of violating their visas as well as the Epidemic Disease Act and, therefore, contributing to the spread of Covid-19.

At least 17 of India’s 28 states have reported Covid-19 cases linked to a Tabligh religious gathering in New Delhi, local media reported.

During the court hearing, most of the defendants admitted to the violations but said they never intended to break the law.

The judge has yet to hand down a sentence, but according to previous cases in which other Tabligh members from other countries were found guilty, the fines ranged from 5,000 rupees to 10,000 rupees (S$93 to S$185).

Mr Judha added that the Indonesian government had provided legal assistance to the accused individuals, including by temporarily releasing them on bail so that they could be housed in better shelters while awaiting sentencing.

Meanwhile, 96 Malaysians who were stranded in India, including the 62 Tabligh missionaries, arrived at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) on Saturday morning, Free Malaysia Today news site reported.

Malaysia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the Malaysians, who were stranded due to the Covid-19 outbreak there, will undergo 14 days of mandatory quarantine at two designated centres.

The 62 missionaries had been stranded since March and were detained by Indian authorities for abusing their social visas to carry out religious activities.

“However, a large number have gone through the legal process and have been freed of the charges,” Datuk Seri Hishammuddin said in a statement.

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