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Italian Convicted in Theft of Sacred Objects Deported

Balinese Protesters Angry and Dismayed by Lenient Sentence Given to Italian Roberto Gamba in Theft of Sacred Objects from Island's Temples.

(2/5/2011) Around 30 Balinese, protesting under the banner of the Perguruan Kebatinan Sandhi Murti Association, gathered in front of the Gianyar prosecutor's office in Bali on February 1, 2011, to voice their disaffection with what they saw as a too lenient sentence handed down to Italian Roberto Gamba in connection with his involvement in the theft of hundreds of sacred objects (Pratima) from Balinese temples across the island.

Gamba, the sole foreigner among 7 men called to justice for stealing religious artifacts, received a prison sentence of only 5 months. The sentence was less than the 8 months demanded by prosecutors and, with time deducted for his imprisonment while awaiting trial, the Italian was released from custody on February 2, 2011.

Seeing the theft of religious objects as a grievous insult to Bali's Hindu majority, I Wayan Semara Cipta, representing the demonstrators said in Kompas.com: "The actions of the perpetrator not only caused material damage to Bali, but, moreover, violated the norms and religious beliefs of the Balinese people.

The infuriated protesters demanded a meeting the chief prosecutor, Anita Asterida, to directly voice their dissatisfaction with the sentence meted out to Gamba. The group requested Asterida appeal the sentence, seeking in its stead a life sentence for the man they said blasphemed the Balinese pantheon.

Claiming the evidence submitted by police did not warrant an appeal or a heavier sentence, Asterida refused the protesters' demands.

Gamba received the lightest sentence in the case among with the seven men convicted in the case. The others convicted were all Balinese: I Gusti Agung Komang Suardika, I Gusti Lanang Sidemen, I Komang Oka Sukaya, I Gusti Putu Oka Riadi, I Wayan Eka Putra and Komang Gde Pariana receiving jail terms of between six and seven years.

According to detik.com, Gamba was met by immigration officials after his release from prison and immediately deported.

The Italian's removal from Bali may have also been motivated for concerns for his personal safety, with the coordinator of the demonstrations, Wayan Kayun Asmara Cipta, saying his group, unhappy with the light sentence given to Gamba, would call on the many villages who lost sacred objects to impose unspecified "traditional sanctions" against the Italian expatriate.