Indonesian police say use of force justified in doctor’s death

Kusumasari Ayuningtyas
2022.03.11
Sukoharjo, Indonesia
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Indonesian police say use of force justified in doctor’s death Arif Budi Satrio, chairman of the Sukoharjo chapter of the Indonesian Medical Doctors Association, speaks to reporters in Central Java, March 11, 2022.
Kusumasari Ayuningtyas/BenarNews

Indonesia’s medical association is expressing disbelief and demanding that police explain what led counter-terrorism officers to gun down a Central Java doctor suspected of belonging to Jemaah Islamiyah, a militant group blamed for the 2002 Bali bombings.

Police said they shot and killed Sunardi, a physician who was known among colleagues for his charitable work, in Sukoharjo regency on Wednesday night after he allegedly drove recklessly to evade arrest, endangering officers.

“I will ask the police. I will go to the police station to talk to them and ask for clarification,” Arif Budi Satrio, chairman of the local branch of the Indonesian Medical Doctors Association (IDI), told reporters on Friday.

“There should be no association between the medical profession and terrorism because the two things are extremely contradictory,” he said.

Meanwhile, national police spokesman Brig. Gen. Ahmad Ramadhan said the officers in Densus 88, a police anti-terrorism unit, had followed standard procedures and were forced to shoot.

Sunardi, he said, held several key positions within Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), including deputy for proselytization and information, as well as adviser to the emir (leader).

Ramadhan said Sunardi was in charge of the Hilal Ahmar Society Indonesia (HASI), which the United Nations Security Council has identified as the "ostensibly humanitarian wing of Jemaah Islamiyah" that allegedly raised funds for the group and helped send members overseas.

“The action taken by Densus 88 was in accordance with procedure. The action was taken because S.U. was deemed to be endangering public lives and those of the police officers,” Ramadhan told a news conference on Friday, using Sunardi’s initials even though he was identified by only one name.

Ramadhan said officers had stopped Sunardi’s pickup truck and identified themselves properly, but he drove recklessly in an apparent attempt to hurt officers who had jumped onto the back of the vehicle. Two officers were injured and treated at a hospital.

“We need to clarify that SU had been designated a suspect. His involvement was clear,” Ramadhan said.

‘Extremely regrettable’

But Trisno Raharjo, the head of the Legal and Human Rights Council at Muhammadiyah, Indonesia’s second largest Islamic organization, called for police to conduct an internal investigation.

“If it’s true that he resisted, they should have used non-lethal force and not killed him,” Trisno told BenarNews. “This is extremely regrettable. These kind of things will cause more problems.

“To prevent a public uproar, an open, transparent and sincere investigation must be carried out, whoever is involved. Whether or not the family demands it, an investigation must be conducted by police,” he said.

Abdul Mu’ti, secretary general of Muhammadiyah, echoed that call.

“The law must be enforced on anyone. If any Densus members violated procedures, they should be punished according to the law,” he said in a statement.

Sunardi’s death trended on Twitter on Friday, with more than 43,000 accounts using the hashtag #prayfordoktersunardi (pray for Doctor Sunardi).

Family spokesman Endro Sudarsono said relatives did not believe that Dr. Sunardi was involved in terrorism.

The police did not notify them about the shooting, Endro alleged.

“The family has confirmed that they only received documents related to his death from the hospital. There were no other documents,” he said.

Endro said several lawyers offered to assist the family if they decided to seek justice and press charges.

Indonesian authorities have blamed JI, the Southeast Asian affiliate of al-Qaeda, for carrying out a series of deadly attacks in the country in the early 2000s. These included the October 2002 bombings on two nightclubs on Bali Island that killed 202 people – Indonesia’s deadliest terrorist attack to date.

JI was outlawed in 2008 and has not staged a major attack since 2011, according to authorities.

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