Prior Clash Cited as Cause of Attack on HKBP Church Leaders

The Jakarta Globe

An eyewitness to a violent attack on two church leaders in Bekasi told a district court on Monday that the attack occurred after members of the church’s congregation had mobbed a passing motorcyclist.

Ciketing resident Edy Suryo Purnomo was testifying at the Bekasi District Court in the trial of 13 men who stand accused of assaulting Asia Sihombing and Rev. Luspida Simandjuntak, from the Batak Christian Protestant Church (HKBP), in September.

Asia was stabbed during the Sept. 12 attack while Luspida was beaten with a bamboo stick. The incident occurred as the congregation was on its way to a vacant lot in Ciketing, where it had been holding services after authorities sealed off the residential house it was using as a church in Pondok Timur Indah.

Edy, who lives near the vacant lot, told the court that a man had been mobbed by members of the HKBP congregation before the attack.

“Some 30 minutes before the riot happened, a motorcyclist passed by the field where the church was holding its service. Suddenly, from the direction of the congregation, someone screamed ‘Thief!’ and they started to beat up the motorcyclist,” Edy told the presiding judge, Wasdi Permana.

“To avoid a serious clash, I tried to prevent the motorcyclist from being beaten up really badly. I asked the congregation what was going on and told them I would take the man to the police.”

Edy asked the motorcyclist to identify himself, he said, and the man reportedly told him he was a journalist. Edy said the man showed him a camera and a press card, but he could not get a clear look at the details.

Both the judge and prosecutor, Priorenta, asked Edy why he failed to get the name of the motorcyclist or which media organization he worked for, to which Edy said the congregation members had pulled the man away from him and he did not get a chance to read the details on the press card.

“While they were interrogating the motorcyclist, men in white skullcaps arrived in a convoy of motorcycles and demanded to know why the congregation was beating up the motorist,” Edy continued. “They were defending the motorcyclist. This is how the attack began.”

The other two witnesses present at Monday’s hearing were a police officer, First Brig. Galih Dwi Setiawan, who was assigned to provide security for the congregation , and another local resident, Ruly Rukmana, who was driving by in his car when he was caught in the middle of the clash.

Galih said that even though he witnessed the incident, he could not identify the people involved.

“I have no idea which organization these men with the white caps were from. I did not see any emblems [on their clothing or their motorcycles],” Galih told the court. “I also do not know whether they were locals or outsiders.”

Galih said that he was too busy to identify any of the assailants because he was trying to get Asia away from the crowd an onto his motorcycle so he could take him to a hospital for emergency treatment.

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