Police here have handed over to the municipal prosecutors' office the dossiers of the alleged sect leaders despite a strong protest from the local church synod, saying it did not have the right to do so.
Speaking to The Jakarta Post on Wednesday, Kupang Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Heri Sulistianto said the seven suspects had admitted wrongdoing and said it was the result of misinterpreting the Bible. Heri said they could face a maximum penalty of five-years imprisonment each.
"They are charged with Article 156 *a* of the Criminal Code on religious blasphemy."
The police detained the suspects, from the Sion City of Allah Christian sect, at the end of May this year, following reports from the local community over fear their teachings were deviating from Christianity.
The suspects also claimed to be the prophets of the sect. They are identified as Nimrot Lasbaun, the sect's leader, who was given the title of the White Horse or the Sheep Son, Nataniel Hendrik Ngahu (the Great Imam), Ruben Huki Hawu (Prophet Paul), Nehemia Ludji Wadu (Prophet Isayah), Kornelis Basten Baitanu whose title was the Commander of Resim, Meon Nubatonis (Prophet Johannes) and Davit Agustinus (Prophet Jeremiah).
Among the sect's allegedly deviant teachings were the ban on joining masses in the church, the ban on female followers wearing panties while performing prayers or removing footwear while entering churches and the ban on marrying according to the church tradition.
Apart from that, the sect leader declared the wound on his right palm hand would cure itself by 2011 after marrying seven women. The sect solely based its teachings on the book of Jeremiah of the Old Testament.
Asked for a comment, Meon Nubatonis, one of the suspects, said he had indeed misinterpreted the Bible and asked to apologise to the Christian community for that.
"We realized we have tainted the holiness of God's sayings. We interpreted them according to our human logic. We apologize for the mistakes."
Separately, head of the Timor Injili Church (GMIT) Synod, Eben Nuban Timo, expressed strong regret over the handing over of the dossiers to the prosecutors' office, saying the police did not have the right to punish people for religious blasphemy.
"They can only do so if they *the suspects* kill people or commit adultery," he said via text message.
According to Timo, even the GMIT as the church of over a million of Christians did not have the right to judge human interpretation of a religious teaching.
"The GMIT's theology committee has informed so to the police's investigators," he added.
The seven suspects were formerly members of the GMIT's Rehobot Bakunase Congregation. Since 2006, however, they stopped attending the church's Sunday masses saying it was against their sect's teachings.