More than 100 people rallied in Indonesia’s Aceh province Friday in support of the police chief who sought permission from Islamic scholars before raiding five beauty salons and detaining 12 transgender people last weekend.
The rally following Friday prayers came days after national Police Chief Gen. Tito Karnavian ordered an investigation into the raids, according to a Human Rights Watch statement.
Aceh Gov. Irwandi Yusuf and several other senior officials spoke at the rally outside the Baiturrahman Grand Mosque in support of North Aceh Regency Police Chief Ahmad Untung Surianata, also known as Untung Sangaji.
The detainees were released Monday after officers cut their hair, made them them put on men’s clothing and had them chant loudly to bring out their male voices.
“We do not hate LGBT people, but what we hate is their behavior,” Yusuf said at the rally. “We cannot blame the actions of the North Aceh police.”
Earlier this week, Untung defended the actions of his police officers on Saturday and Sunday. “I asked for permission from ulemas, then I did the raids.”
The detainees were held to “be coached back as real men,” before being released Monday night.
“We released them. They were not arrested but nurtured to become men. And it turns out they can be men,” he told BenarNews on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, in Jakarta, National Police spokesman Brig. Pol. Mohammad Iqbal told BenarNews that any officer who committed a mistake during the arrests or subsequent treatment of the detainees would face possible sanctions.
“If a crime was committed, a criminal sentence will be given. We will do the investigation,” he said.
The national police chief reports directly to President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who in 2016 supported members of the LGBT community, declaring police must act against anyone who tries to harm them or deny their rights.
“Karnavian’s rebuke of the Aceh raid is a good start, but police need to stop these raids altogether to restore public confidence,” HRW said in a press release, adding the raids were part of a disturbing pattern where police invade private places such as hotel rooms, homes, clubs and beauty salons to harass a minority group.
Aceh is the only Indonesian province where Islamic Sharia law is implemented.
After Acehnese authorities on Wednesday issued a letter to airlines stating that female Muslim flight attendants must wear hijabs when they fly into Aceh, AirAsia announced it would employ only male cabin crews on flights to the province, the Associated Press reported.
Nisita Kirana Pratiwi in Jakarta contributed to this story.