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Indonesian Soldiers Sentenced for Prison Murders

Indonesian special forces soldiers listen as judges deliver their sentence at a military court in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Sept. 5, 2013.
An Indonesian court has sentenced eight special forces soldiers for breaking into a jail and executing four prisoners in a revenge killing.

The military court in Yogyakarta handed down sentences of six to 11 years for the three who led the attack. ive others were given sentences of 21 months in jail. Four others are expected to be sentenced Friday.

The soldiers carried out the killings in March in retaliation for the murder of another member of their unit, allegedly by the men being held in the jail.

The three ringleaders could have faced the death penalty and the relatively light prison sentences are being criticized. National Committee for Human Rights Commissioner Menejer Nasution said in an interview with VOA that Indonesia the jail terms do not match up with the the severity of the crimes they were convicted of.

"According to ... the Indonesian Penal Code, premeditated murders carry the death penalty, or a life sentence, or 20 years imprisonment, correct? Our initial note indicates a discrepancy. The judge found that this was premeditated, and yet, the sentence did not reflect that," he said.

But the Chief defense lawyer, Colonel Rochmad, says the attack was not coordinated.

"As we stated in the trial, there was no element of planning whatsoever," he said.

The incident has highlighted political divisions in Indonesians. The killings caused an outcry among many who remember the Suharto dictatorship when the military often acted with impunity. But others have praised the solders for acting decisively against alleged gang members and rallied for their release outside the court.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Indonesian service.