Jakarta

FPI sympathizer charged
with sudden attack

The Jakarta Police said on Wednesday that they had detained four men involved in Tuesday afternoon’s protest at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle, where protesters demanded the disbandment of the hard-line Islam Defenders Front (FPI).

“Only one of them, 48-year-old J, has been named a suspect in the case,” police spokesman Sr. Comr. Rikwanto told reporters.

The police said that all the four detainees were FPI sympathizers, as a lawyer from the notorious organization had visited the police headquarters to assist them with the legal process.

Tuesday’s protest took a violent turn when one of its coordinators, identified as Bhagavad Sambada, was suddenly attacked by a then-unidentified man. The attacker then grabbed one of the protest banners and trampled on it, inciting the anger of many of the protesters.

Six men were taken into custody later in the evening, including Bhagavad and another protester identified as Bandi. Bhagavad and Bandi were released on Tuesday night after the police finished questioning them.

Rikwanto said that video recordings of the incident made by local television stations clearly proved that J had attacked Bhagavad.

Police questioning of J found that he attacked Bhagavad upon seeing one of the protest banners bearing the words “A Valentine Gift for Habib Rizieq”. J has been charged under Article 170 of the Criminal Code on forceful attack with the intent to inflict harm. He may face seven years in prison if found guilty.

The other three detainees were identified as 24-year-old A, 23-year-old B, and 44-year-old S. “They were detained on the grounds of Bhagavad’s statements during questioning that they had also attacked him,” said Rikwanto.

Women’s rights activist Tunggal Prawesti, who served as the spokesperson of Tuesday’s rally, told The Jakarta Post that the protesters would oversee the ongoing legal process to ensure that justice would be served.

Rikwanto said that the police had received numerous public complaints regarding violent incidents involving members of mass organizations, including the FPI.

“However, we don’t have the authority to disband them. We can only state the facts. There have been numerous complaints of these organizations. It’s up to the Home Ministry to do something based on these facts,” he said.

Separately, Home Minister Gamawan Fauzi said that the ministry would not hesitate to freeze mass organizations such as the FPI if they kept disrupting public safety.

According to him, his ministry had sent the FPI two warning letters, the latest of which was sent after the group vandalized the ministry’s office in Central Jakarta last month.

Meanwhile, the FPI said that the state had no reason to freeze the organization. “There is nothing to evaluate [in terms of the FPI’s existence]. The pressure [to disband the FPI] makes no sense,” senior FPI member Habib Muhsin Ahmad Alatas said, as quoted by kompas.com. (mim)

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