The Jakarta Post
An alleged motorcycle thief in Pondok Aren, South Tangerang, Banten, south of Jakarta, was set alight by an angry mob on Tuesday, said Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Martinus Sitompul.
'There were four robbers, but only one was caught by a mob that took the law into their own hands and killed the thief,' Martinus said as quoted by Antara news agency.
Martinus said the incident occurred at 1 a.m. on Tuesday when four individuals were allegedly on the prowl to steal motorcycles.
The gang attacked Wahyu Hidayat, 21, and his friend, Sri Astriani, 19, while they were traveling on a motorcycle. One of the robbers brandished a sword, but Sri managed to snatch the weapon while Wahyu screamed for help, attracting passersby.
The four robbers subsequently fled the scene but were chased. One of them was caught and set on fire in the street.
In his account of the event to Pondok Aren Police on Tuesday, Wahyu said the mob beat the alleged robber, kicked and stripped the lanky man before setting him on fire.
Martinus commended the efforts of the victim to fight back, but warned the public not to take the law into their own hands.
The charred remains of the alleged robber have not been identified. Nor have the identities of the other three alleged perpetrators.
Pondok Aren Police chief Comr. Bachtiar Alfonso said he would pursue the other three alleged robbers because their action had caused unrest in the neighborhood.
Bachtiar did not say he would pursue the mob, but in a rare move Martinus said the Jakarta Police would investigate the killing.
The police will identify the killers of the alleged robber, he said as quoted by tribunnews.com.
'We have to remind them that this was a violation of the law and punish them. The perpetrators will be charged under Article 359 of the Criminal Code,' he said.
According to the article, anyone who causes a death through negligence could face a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
Martinus said the move was necessary as a deterrent. 'We will investigate who did this, who collectively did this,' he said.
In the past, the police rarely have investigated mob violence. In September last year, a mob in Bekasi lynched a man who was allegedly trying to steal a parked motorcycle. The man was beaten to death with wooden planks.
Bekasi Police spokesman First Insp. Makmur said the beating would not be looked into unless a relative of the thief officially objected to his death.
Makmur said the police would not do anything about the assault because there were too many perpetrators. He added that the police had reprimanded people at the scene about taking the law into their own hands.
People in the vicinity of Pondok Aren seemed more concerned about motorcycle theft in the area than the lynching on Tuesday morning.
A witness of the lynching, Yudi, was quoted by tribunnews.com as saying that it was justified because he believed the law failed to deter robbers. 'Out of jail, back to robbing people again, that's what they do. And they rob sadistically,' Yudi said.
Yudi said the mob doused the alleged robber with gasoline from a bottle bought at a sidewalk kiosk. 'When the fire was about to die, they doused him with more gasoline, and later they threw a car tire on him to prolong the flames. It seemed that the residents were really angry about the robberies,' he said.
Ratyo, another resident and witness, shared the same sentiment as Yudi.
'It was indeed sadistic. But I think it had to be done to make other robbers think twice about robbing us. They have walked all over us for too long,' Ratyo said.