Indonesian Police: 4 Supporters of Firebrand Cleric were Killed while in Custody

Riza Chadijah
Indonesian Police: 4 Supporters of Firebrand Cleric were Killed while in Custody Supporters surround Muslim cleric Muhammad Rizieq Shihab (center) as he arrives at police headquarters in Jakarta to be questioned, Dec. 12, 2020.

Four of six members of a hardline Muslim group killed by police last week were shot while in custody after they attacked officers inside a police vehicle, an investigator said Monday after a re-enactment of events.

The incident occurred on Dec. 7 when members of the Muslim Defenders’ Front (FPI) who were traveling with founder Muhammad Rizieq Shihab surrounded the police car and started shooting, prompting officers to return fire, killing two, said Andi Rian, national police director for general crimes.

“The four people who were still alive were taken in a police car to the Jakarta Metropolitan Police headquarters. On the way, they attacked and tried to seize officers’ guns,” Andi told reporters after the re-enactment, adding the four suspects were not handcuffed.

“They were met with decisive and measured action by police,” he said.

The investigator’s comments about the re-enactment of the incident about 50 km (31 miles) east of Jakarta drew a rebuke from FPI leaders and a call from NGO Indonesia Police Watch (IPW) for an independent probe.

Last week, Jakarta Police Chief Muhammad Fadil Imran said the officers shot and killed the six after they opened fire at police and attacked them with a sword and sickles. But he made no mention of any alleged shootings inside the vehicle. A photo from a press conference that day showed officers holding the sword and sickle along with two handguns.

Instead, Fadil said the shooting occurred when the group attacked officers who were in a car trailing Riziek’s motorcade. The officers had received information that the preacher’s supporters were planning to protest at police headquarters in Jakarta that day, because Rizieq had been called in for questioning over allegations that he and other FPI leaders violated COVID-19 restrictions during events in November.

Munarman, FPI’s general secretary, accused police of extrajudicial killings and pointed out that Andi’s version of the incident differed from last week’s report.

“It’s odd that the officers killed them in the car,” Munarman told reporters at the Jakarta Police Headquarters.

He dismissed the claim that the four attempted to seize police weapons as “slander.”

“After all, previously they said those who were shot dead had guns. Now the story has changed,” he said.

IPW, meanwhile, questioned whether officers had violated procedure.

“Police officers who should have been well-trained were unable to paralyze unarmed FPI members and instead shot them at close range and killed them,” IPW chairman Neta S. Pane told BenarNews.

He urged parliament and the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) to press President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo for an outside investigation.

“If Jokowi refuses to set up an independent fact-finding team, it means that the president does not want the case to be resolved and his commitment to upholding the rule of law is questionable,” he said.

Komnas HAM investigation

Komnas HAM member Muhammad Choirul Anam said his organization had inspected the scene.

“We are gathering our findings from the last few days,” he told BenarNews, adding that he believed those findings would shed light on what happened.

In addition, Komnas HAM chairman Ahmad Taufan Damanik said he planned to summon the Jakarta police chief for questioning.

“We respect the re-enactment by the National Police – that’s their version of events. Komnas HAM as an independent institution is conducting an investigation using data and information we have collected ourselves,” he told reporters.

Lawyer seeks bail for Rizieq

Rizieq turned himself in to police on Saturday to be questioned about gatherings last month, including his daughter’s wedding that allegedly flouted COVID-19 restrictions.

Police said Rizieq was arrested on Sunday and would remain in custody until the end of the year, according to newswire reports. He could face a sentence of up to six years if convicted of breaking the quarantine order and inciting others.

Thousands of Rizieq’s supporters gathered at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport on Nov. 10 to welcome his return to Indonesia after three years of self-exile in Saudi Arabia. Thousands more packed a Central Jakarta neighborhood on Nov. 14 to attend his daughter’s wedding and to celebrate the birth anniversary of Prophet Muhammad.

On Nov. 22, the health ministry said 80 coronavirus cases had been linked to the gatherings, for which Rizieq has apologized.

Several legislators, including one from the Muslim-based Prosperous Justice Party, have expressed willingness to guarantee that Rizieq would cooperate if he were to be granted bail or placed under house arrest.

Rizieq’s lawyer, Aziz Yanuar, said he appreciated the help from these politicians.

“Until now, Habib has not decided whether to seek bail or not. We respect all support and hope that he will be free without conditions,” Aziz told BenarNews.

Indonesia recorded 5,489 COVID-19 infections on Monday, bringing the nationwide total to 623,309 – the most in Southeast Asia. The virus-related death toll rose by 137 to 18,956, according to health officials.

Globally, more than 72.5 million people have been infected by the coronavirus and more than 1.6 million have died, according to disease experts at U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.


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