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Jakarta Post

Legal aid lawyers protest against detention of ex-Gafatar members

  • Marguerite Afra Sapiie
    Marguerite Afra Sapiie

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, May 26, 2016   /  08:56 pm
Legal aid lawyers protest against detention of ex-Gafatar members Former members of the controversial Fajar Nusantara Movement (Gafatar) arrive at their temporary shelter, a hajj dormitory in Bekasi, West Jakarta, on Feb. 1. The government relocated 903 people to the shelter to be registered and then returned to their hometowns. (ANTARA FOTO/Risky Andrianto)

A team of public attorneys from the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute have spoken out against the arrest of three former members of the controversial Fajar Nusantara Movement (Gafatar) who have been named suspects for blasphemy and treason on the back of a reportedly unconstitutional legal process.

The National Police's Criminal Investigation Agency (Bareskrim) arrested two former Gafatar members, Mahful Muis Tumanurung and Andri Cahya, as well as the group's spiritual leader and the founder of Al Qidayah al-Islamiyah, Ahmad Musadeq, on Wednesday.

Police will detain the men for the next 20 days while they further investigate following months of information gathering related to the now-defuct group's activities.

Fati Lazira, public attorney at the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (YLBHI), said the reasons for detaining the men were unclear as the three men had answered their summons on Wednesday morning without any resistance.

"We still don't know the reason behind the detention. Where is the evidences?" Fati said to thejakartapost.com.

Police need sufficient evidence before they are allowed to keep anyone in custody according to the Criminal Law Procedures (KUHAP), he added.

Gafatar was at the center of a controversy earlier this year following the disappearance of some of its members. The missing members were later found to have relocated and built a village in Mempawah regency in West Kalimantan. They were then exiled by local residents after media reports on the controversy surrounding the group, which then lead to the government evacuating thousands of the relocated members to their respective hometowns.

The Attorney General's Office (AGO), the Home Affairs Ministry and the Religious Affairs Ministry issued a joint decree in March officially banning the Gafatar movement from spreading its doctrine, which deviates from mainstream interpretations of Islamic teachings.

The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) has also declared Gafatar heretic. MUI claimed Gafatar's religious teachings combined the teachings of Islam, Christianity and Judaism, and that its members had declared Ahmad Mussadeq a prophet.

Asfinawati, another legal aid attorney, said officials should have waited for further evaluation of adherence to the joint decree to see whether the banned organization was still operating and promoting its views, instead of just immediately naming the three suspects.

"If [there is] evidence that says the organization is still active, only then can they be made suspects," Asfinawati said.

Another attorney Saidiman Ahmad said the arrests were regrettable and that the incident could become a bad precedent for the treatment of citizens with different beliefs, adding that the police could use the charge of religious defamation to arrest anyone and curb freedom of faith.

Meanwhile, National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Boy Rafli Amar said the detention of the men was aimed at making the investigation more effective. Police also wanted to ensure the safety of the suspects, he added, suggesting there might be a negative reaction from citizens who stand against Gafatar's controversial beliefs.

The investigators are aiming to find people who have been active in Gafatar to ask them about the group's actions, especially related to alleged religious defamation because the group's dissemination of their belief system has caused public disturbances in the past.

"We don't want the Gafatar movement to cause a clash of religious teachings in Indonesia," Boy said at the National Police headquarters.

The police have obtained a number of pieces of evidence such as witness statements and documents related to Gafatar's activities, Boy claimed.

The charges against Musadeq, who was also convicted in 2008 for religious blasphemy, will depend on the result of the investigation and the facts revealed in court, Boy said. (rin)

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