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Clinton must press Indonesia on rising intolerance: HRW

JAKARTA -- Human Rights Watch (HRW) Sunday called on U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to pressure the Indonesian government to address rising religious intolerance, a day ahead of her visit to the country.

Indonesian authorities have failed to adequately address increasing incidents of mob violence by militant Islamist groups against religious minorities, including the Ahmadiyah Muslim sect, Christians, and Shiites, the New York-based rights watchdog said.

“Secretary Clinton should press the Indonesian government to take concrete steps to address rising religious intolerance,” the group's Asia advocacy director John Sifton said in a statement.

“Indonesia needs to recognize that oppressive laws and policies against religious minorities fuel violence and discrimination,” he added.

Clinton is expected to visit Jakarta on Sept. 3 as part of an 11-day Asia trip.

Indonesia's constitution guarantees freedom of religion but rights groups say violence against minorities has been escalating since 2008.

In February 2011, a 1,500-strong mob of Muslims set two churches alight and ransacked a third in the town of Temanggung, on the island of Java, as they demanded that a Christian man be sentenced to death for insulting Islam.

HRW said that in the few cases of violence that have resulted in prosecutions, the authorities had often failed to charge all those involved, and punishments had been remarkably light.

Violence against Shiites in East Java last month, in which dozens of homes were torched and two Shiite men killed, underscored the continuing decline in security for religious minorities, it added.

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