Indonesia: Islam Defenders Front radicals remain free after assault on transgender individuals

The Jakarta Post

Three days after the unruly Islam Defenders Front (FPI) stormed a human rights training workshop for transgender individuals in Depok, West Java, police seem reluctant to pursue the case further, with no arrests made to date. Despite massive media reports covering the Friday attack and the presence of several police officers at the crime scene, police investigations have made little progress, despite apparent evidence of the perpetrators. “We were planning to question several witnesses today, but no one showed up,” Depok Police detectives chief Comr. Ade Rahmat Idnal said Monday. The witnesses Ade was referring to were the workshop organizers and members of FPI.

The workshop, jointly organized by the National Commission for Human Rights (Komnas HAM) and the Indonesian Transgender Communication Forum (FKWI), had just begun when dozens of FPI activists forced their way into the room past several police officers, banging on the door and repeatedly shouting the name of God. They also accused the organizers of holding a transsexual beauty pageant at the hotel.

As well as destroying some of the hotel’s property, the extremists also reportedly assaulted one participant from the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation who was due to speak at the event.

A number of police officers were already on site when the group entered the hotel to protest the event, but failed to stop them from entering the room since the officers were outnumbered.

Both FKWI and Komnas HAM condemned the way police handled the case. “A number of police officers witnessed the attack. How come they needed us to come and explain what had happened,” FKWI western region chief Merlyn Sopjan told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

Workshop organizer Hesti Armiwulan from Komnas HAM also doubted that police would be serious in handling the case.

“It should be [the FPI members] who are first brought to face legal proceedings,” Hesti said, adding that the commission would submit a detailed report on the attack to the police on Tuesday.

Separately, FPI Depok chapter head Habib Idrus Al Gadhri invited police to summon his members should the police want to question them about the incident.

”Of course we are ready,” he said.

The FPI has a long, mostly unpunished criminal record of often violent raids, including on nightspots in Jakarta, often conducted during the fasting month of Ramadan.

The group has also often been involved in unconstitutional assaults to force the closure of houses of worship belonging to religious minorities in many areas across Indonesia.

Veteran human rights activist Hendardi, who currently chairs the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, criticized the police, which he said seemed powerless against the unlawful assaults committed by the hard-line group.

Criminal Code rulings possibly violated by FPI

Article 160:
 “Any person who orally or in writing incites in public to commit a punishable act, a violent action against the public authority or any other disobedience, either to a statutory provision or to an official order issued under a statutory provision, shall be punished by a maximum imprisonment of six years or a maximum fine of three hundreds Rupiahs.”  

 Article 170 clause (1): Person who with united forces openly commit violence against persons of property, shall be punished by a maximum imprisonment of five years and six months.

Article 310 clause (1): The person who intentionally harms someone’s honor or reputation by charging him with certain fact, with the obvious intent to give publicity thereof, shall, being guilty of slander, be punished by a maximum imprisonment of nine months or a maximum fine of three hundred Rupiahs.    

Article 351 clause (1): Maltreatment shall be punishable with a maximum prison term of two years and eight months or a maximum fine of Rp 300,000. 

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Tue, 05/04/2010