The Jakarta Post
Divergent accounts between the police and the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) over the deaths of six of the group’s members in a purported altercation in the early hours of Monday have sparked questions from observers, calling for transparency into the incident.
The calls came following an alleged clash between members of the police and sympathizers of FPI leader Rizieq Shihab on a section of the Jakarta-Cikampek toll road, which resulted in the deaths of six men.
Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Fadil Imran said his office had deployed six personnel at midnight to tail a vehicle thought to have belonged to Rizieq supporters, following a tip-off regarding a plan allegedly concocted by FPI members to disrupt the questioning of the controversial cleric by the police, scheduled to take place at the Jakarta Police headquarters at 10 a.m. Rizieq was summoned by the Jakarta Police regarding the alleged public health protocol violations at his mass gatherings last month.
However, he claimed the driver of the vehicle had noticed that they were being followed, which prompted them to obstruct the police car.
The alleged Rizieq sympathizers then proceeded to attack the police officers deployed to the scene using firearms and sharp weapons, Fadil continued.
“The officers, whose safety was threatened, responded by taking tough and measured action [against the purported attackers],” he said during a televised press conference.
He added that six of the 10 alleged attackers were shot dead as a result of the conflict. The others managed to flee the scene.
Fadil went on to say that none of the officers present at the scene were injured. Only the police car used to tail Rizieq’s alleged supporters was damaged as a result of the clash, he added.
“We call on Rizieq and his supporters to refrain from disrupting the investigation process, because doing so constitutes a felony,” he said, adding that the police would not hesitate to take strict action against threats directed at the police.
Jakarta Military commander Maj. Gen. Dudung Abdurrachman, who was also present at the conference, said the military would also fully support the steps taken by the police.
In response to the news, FPI chairman Ahmad Shabri Lubis and secretary-general Munarman produced a radically different account of events that appeared to contradict the police’s official chronology.
Ahmad claimed in a written statement that a number of unidentified individuals attacked Rizieq and his entourage near the East Kerawang toll road last night.
“Rizieq and his family, including his toddler grandchildren, were on the way to a family religious gathering when they were stopped by several unidentified people,” he said, adding that he strongly suspected the individuals to be members of a surveillance mission aimed at harming Rizieq.
Read also: Rizieq returns amid Islamic political upturn
Ahmad went on to say that the unknown group then shot at one of the cars containing six FPI members and proceeded to “abduct” them.
“The car containing the six [FPI] members is still missing. We pray that the abducted members are safe and sound,” he said.
He stopped short of disclosing Rizieq’s current whereabouts, saying he was concerned for the security and safety of the FPI leader.
Furthermore, Munarman claimed that Rizieq had been stalked by dozens of individuals allegedly connected to a state institution since the day he returned to the country.
“Since his return, [Rizieq] has been stalked 24 hours a day,” he said in a press conference on Monday afternoon.
He suspected there were 30 people, divided into three groups, deployed to the FPI’s headquarters in Petamburan in Central Jakarta, as well as to Megamendung and Sentul, both in Bogor, West Java.
He further claimed that the individuals tasked with the surveillance had deployed advanced technology, such as drones, to constantly keep tabs on Rizieq.
“It’s extrajudicial killing,” Munarman said of the shooting.
The FPI would report the deaths of its six members to the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), he added.
Rizieq was previously summoned by the Jakarta Police for questioning regarding his alleged disregard for COVID-19 protocols during a number of mass gatherings that drew thousands of his supporters shortly following his return from Saudi Arabia in November.
The national COVID-19 task force traced nearly 240 confirmed cases to 17 clusters that emerged between May and November from large public gatherings at religious events and places of worship in Jakarta.
The police’s tough action against the alleged attackers has prompted strong reactions from observers.
Indonesia Police Watch (IPW) chairperson Neta S. Pane called for the immediate establishment of an independent fact-finding team to shed light on how the alleged conflict had actually unfolded, given the discrepancies between the accounts of the police and the FPI.
He conveyed his skepticism particularly of the police’s version of the events, raising questions as to whether the FPI members were actually armed and whether they fired the first shot.
Herman Hery, a member of House of Representatives Commission III, which oversees legal affairs, said although it was true that in accordance with articles 48 and 49 of the Criminal Code, the police could incapacitate a person who threatened the safety of others or the officers themselves, the Jakarta Police still needed to clarify how the incidents took place.
“What is certain now is that the police need to provide clarification and evidence to the community regarding the incapacitation measures, to ensure that they were actually taken in accordance with the procedures and the law,” said the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician.
Executive director of Amnesty International Indonesia Usman Hamid called for the police’s full transparency into the shooting that killed six people. The incident, he said, should be independently investigated and the officers should be brought to justice if they were found to have violated the protocols regarding the use of force and firearms.
“Police should only use force, especially firearms, as a last resort in extreme situations to protect themselves or others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury. Unlawful use of force by police is never allowed,” he said in a statement.