Café raid taints trust in police
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One week into the Muslim fasting month of Ramadhan, a café in Pesanggrahan, South Jakarta, was ransacked by a mob of more than 100 people on Saturday evening, undermining the city police vow to ban raids during the holy month.
The case highlighted lapses in the police attempt to safeguard residents in all parts of the city against any form of vigilantism, a problem that critics have often said was rooted in a shortage of police personnel.
The police say that they have named 23 individuals, including two teenagers, as suspects in the attack on the café and the assault upon its employees, after previously detaining as many as 62 people in the case.
Nineteen of the 23 suspects have been charged with forceful attack with the intent to inflict harm, as stipulated within the Criminal Code’s Article 170, which carries a maximum sentence of five-and-a-half years in prison.
The other four, including the two boys, were also charged under the article and with illegally and publicly brandishing bladed weapons, as stipulated in the 1951 Emergency Law on Firearms and Explosives. The four may face up to 10 years in jail if found guilty.
The other 39 individuals, who were detained but not named suspects, are all reportedly minors, who were said to have left home for a “Koran-recital”.
A police report showed that the detainees ransacked De Most café in Pesanggrahan at around 11:30 p.m. on Saturday.
“The café has a bar that sells alcoholic drinks. Members of the attacking mob admitted that they had taken it upon themselves to close down the business. The raid itself had been planned for two weeks,” South Jakarta Police chief Sr. Comr. Imam Sugianto said on Sunday.
According to Imam, the mob had visited the locations of two other cafés prior to visiting De Most, only to find both cafés closed. They then arrived at De Most café and shattered the windows of its security posts with a golf club. Some then entered the building and threw bottles of liquor while demanding the café’s employees shut the establishment down. At least two employees were beaten in the chaos, the police said.
A number of the mob’s members were arrested by the police while they were on their way from the café to another location after the ransacking took place.
Among the items the police confiscated from the suspects, which included a machete, a sickle, four golf clubs and four samurai swords, was a large banner that read Majelis Pembela Rasulullah, or Rasulullah Defenders’ Council. Rasulullah, an Arabic term meaning God’s apostle, is an affectionate Muslim term for the Prophet Muhammad.
The mob’s alleged leader, Habib Bahar, 33, is among the four suspects who face multiple charges. According to him, he and his disciples have often taken such action during Ramadhan.
“It is usual for me and my followers to raid sinful places during Ramadhan,” he said as quoted by kompas.com. “If there are sinners who get drunk [in the café], we have to act.”
This is not the first time Bahar has had to spend time behind bars. He was arrested at least twice for his involvement in attacking an Ahmadiyah mosque in Kebayoran Lama, South Jakarta, and in a riot at the location of a revered Muslim figure, known as Mbah Priuk, in Koja, North Jakarta. Both incidents occurred in 2010.
Imam said the café that was attacked had since been closed down by the city’s Culture and Tourism Agency with the help of public order officers.
The Jakarta Police had previously said on July 16 that they would forbid mass organizations from conducting raids on the city’s nightlife and entertainment venues during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadhan.
The chairman of the Association of Recreation and Public Entertainment Business Owners (PPRHU), Adrian Mailete, said last week that entertainment business owners would obey the restrictions the Jakarta Police imposed during Ramadhan.
“If we find any entertainment spots that violate the restrictions, we will send a letter to the Jakarta Culture and Tourism Agency recommending that they be closed down.”