Activists say Sharia shaming led to suicide in Aceh

Khabar Southeast Asia

Activists say Sharia shaming led to suicide in Aceh

Task Force for Children Protection co-ordinator M. Ihsan tells reporters on September 13th that Sharia law enforcers must consider a child’s perspective in handling juvenile cases. [Elisabeth Oktofani /Khabar].

Publicly called a prostitute, teen girl apparently chose death to escape the humiliation.

Activists are lamenting the suicide of a 16-year-old girl in Aceh who hanged herself just days after she was arrested by Sharia police and accused of prostituting herself.

The girl and a friend were arrested as they attended a concert in Langsa, East Aceh on September 3rd. Three days later, she was found dead in her room. Her family later found a suicide note in her school bag.

“Father, forgive me, for I have brought shame on you and others, but I swear that I’ve never sold myself to others,” the note said, according to excerpts printed in Indonesian media. “That night, I was just watching a concert in Langsa, and I was sitting on the field with a friend.”

Three local tabloids ran articles the next day about the arrest of “teenage sex workers” at the concert without verifying the claims, according to the Banda Aceh chapter of the Alliance for Independent Journalists, The Jakarta Post reported.

In Jakarta, activists called for greater protection of children and an end to local laws they said discriminate against women and girls.

“The public arrest process will certainly make people feel humiliated,” Feri Kusuma from the Commission on Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) said at a press conference on September 13th.

“The procedure for the implementation of Sharia law for juveniles must be differentiated from adults,” said Maria Ulfah Anshor, former chairwoman of the women’s wing of Nahdlatul Ulama, the largest Islamic organisation in Indonesia. “The implementation should refer to the 2002 Children Protection Regulation, which requires a children-specific approach.”

“It needs to be understood that teenagers or children accept negative labels in different ways than adults,” agreed M. Ihsan, co-ordinator of the Task Force for the Protection of Children (Satgas Perlindungan Anak). “It is very important to use a children’s perspective for cases involving juveniles.”

He regretted that Sharia police arrested a juvenile in a public place and directly accused her of violating Sharia law without further investigation.

Many juveniles who have a public encounter with the Sharia enforcers do not want to go back to school because of the stigma – regardless of whether their actions were right or wrong, he said.

According to the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan), the case is not the first in which a public-shaming based on morality laws had led to death. “PE’s case is actually not the first time it happened,” Komnas Perempuan Commissioner Andy Yentriyani said, using the initials of the girl who hanged herself.

She pointed to the case of Lilis Lisdawati, a housewife from Tangerang, Banten arrested and incarcerated in 2007 on charges of being a prostitute. With no access to judicial recourse, unable to regain her good name, Lilis sank into a depression and died.

Komnas Perempuan has identified 282 regional regulations (Peraturan Daerah/Perda) that discriminate against women, including 207 that directly target women, Andy said. For example, 60 local laws regulate how a woman dresses, and 38 limit a woman’s freedom of movement.

Many such regulations are established to promote religious values and morality. But their implementation tends to violate human rights that are protected by the Constitution, she said.

Komnas Perempuan has identified 15 discriminatory regulations in Aceh. Violations can lead to cruel and humiliating punishments such as beatings, canings, being bathed in sewage water, being paraded and forced to marry, the group said.

“Even though Aceh implements Sharia law, the implementation must be in accordance with –and follow– our Constitution,” Andy told reporters.

Shia cleric’s trial legally flawed: experts

Khabar Southeast Asia

Shia cleric’s trial legally flawed: experts

A team of legal experts says judges’ verdict was based on allegations, not evidence, in the test case for Indonesia’s Shia community

Tajul Muluk did not receive a fair trial, according to legal experts who reviewed the case of the Shia cleric from Sampang, Madura currently serving a two-year sentence for blasphemy.

The Sampang District Court unfairly discarded defence witness testimony, failed to provide a certified translator for witnesses who spoke only Madurese, and ruled based on unproven allegations, according to findings presented at a press conference in Jakarta on September 17th.

The five-member team that reviewed the trial consisted of professors from Gadjah Madah University (UGM) and Indonesia Islamic University (UII) in Yogyakarta, and a former judge.

“There is no justice for the defendant. The legal procedure was not used properly,” said UGM professor Zahru Arqom, urging the Supreme Court and Judicial Commission to conduct their own review of the case.

“We saw several things related with the lack of criminal procedure. Some of the witnesses who were interrogated by the investigators actually cannot speak Indonesian. But the case report was written in Indonesian,” said Muhammad Arif Setiawan, a legal expert from UII.

“It needs to be understood that the investigation report is usually rendered in an understandable language, in this case Madura language, because the report must be signed by the witnesses,” he said.

On July 12th, the Sampang District Court sentenced Tajul Muluk to two years in prison for deviant religious teachings and causing public anxiety, under article 156a of the Criminal Code on blasphemy and article 335 on unpleasant conduct.

On September 21st, an East Java High Court judge increased the sentence to four years, according to media reports confirmed by Khabar Southeast Asia.

Lack of evidence

Tajul Muluk was arrested and prosecuted after a mob attacked the Sampang Shia community in December 2011. His house, pesantren and place of worship were also burned down.

His conviction in July was based on evidence from witnesses who testified that he taught an unauthentic Qur’an, instructed his followers to pray three times a day instead of five, and said pilgrimage to Mecca is not obligatory, which is contrary to most Islamic schools of thought.

In August, Abdullah Beik, chairman of Ahlul Bait Indonesia (ABI), an organisation which has been advocating for Shia Muslims in Indonesia, told Khabar that Tajul would appeal his conviction.

“The Sampang District Court decision is actually unfair because the judge did not have enough legal evidence such as a video or audio to prove that Tajul taught an unauthentic Qur’an,” he said.

The blasphemy charge had no legal foundation other than a decree issued by the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) of Madura. “However, central MUI in Jakarta never declared Shia as deviant,” he said.

Tajul’s case has raised concerns among the Shia community, he noted. Followers now fear criminal prosecution in addition to attacks.

Attacked Again

On August 26th, Tajul’s village was attacked again by local Sunni Muslims. Two men were killed, dozens were injured and 37 Shia homes were burned to the ground.

“The court should be the institution to guarantee Tajul legal protection. Those who attacked him and his community should be facing legal processes,” Ifdhal Kasim, chairman of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) told the September 17th press conference.

The only person arrested in the wake of the December violence was Tajul Muluk. However, police arrested five suspects from the incident in late August, and seek four more.

Depok bomb blast aborts sinister plans

Khabar Southeast Asia

Depok bomb blast aborts sinister plans

Residents of Depok, West Java watch on Sunday (September 9th) as police investigate the scene of a bomb blast the night before. The explosion injured at least six people, including a man suspected of making the bomb. [Elisabeth Oktofani/Khabar]

The men exposed by an accidental bomb blast in Depok, West Java were planning acts of terrorism, police say.

One surrendered at a police station, wearing a suicide belt and pining for his family. Another lies in a police hospital, unrecognisable, burns covering 70% of his body.

Just prior to an explosion at 9:30 pm Saturday (September 8th), the two men met at a house in Beji, Depok that advertised itself as an orphanage but turned out to be a bomb factory.

The blast at the so-called Pondok Bidara Orphanage Foundation injured at least six people, most of them neighbours who lived just behind the bomb site.

The victims are Nanut Triaman (62), Bagus Kuncoro (20), Taufik (32), Wulandari (27), Fajruddin (27), and a man originally identified only as Mr X because the severity of his injuries made immediate identification impossible.

Suspected of being a bomb maker, Mr X was brought to the Kramat Jati Police Hospital in East Jakarta for intensive treatment, according to Boy Rafli Amar, the spokesman for the Indonesian National Police.

“His right hand was damaged badly. His neck was hit by some kind of hard object, and his face has been badly burned,” he told reporters Sunday (September 9th) in Jakarta.

After the explosion, neighbours saw two men escape by motorcycle. “We’re monitoring hospitals and clinics because one of them is believed to have suffered burns,” Boy said. “We strongly believe that the suspects were involved in assembling the bomb.”

Police did not have to wait long to nab one of the fugitives. At around 5:30 on Sunday (September 9th), 32-year-old Muhammad Toriq – also spelled Toriq in some reports — turned himself in at Tambora police office in West Jakarta.

An explosives belt was strapped to his body, which he handed to police, along with a gun and ammunition, Jakarta police spokesman Col. Rikwanto said.

“He turned himself in because he missed his family,” Rikwanto said, according to The Jakarta Globe.

Planned suicide attack

Prior to his surrender, Thorik had considered blowing himself up at a police office or a Buddhist centre, Boy later told reporters in an update on the unfolding events.

According to Boy, the suspect planned to detonate a suicide bomb at one of four potential targets: Depok Mobil Brigade (Brimob) headquarters, the National Police Detachment 88 office in Jakarta, a police building in Salemba, Central Jakarta, or a Buddhist centre. The planned attack was a deluded attempt at revenge for the treatment of Rohingya Muslims in Burma.

Thorik had escaped from the police twice before he surrendered. He first escaped on September 5th after a neighbour reported smoke coming from his house in Tambora, West Jakarta.

The smoke turned out to be a cloud of explosive material that had accidently spilled. When police arrived at the house, Thorik was gone, but they took his mother Iyot, 71, his wife Sri Haryani, and his three-year-old son Mohammad Gabriel to the police station.

Thorik was at the “orphanage” in Depok when the bomb exploded but fled before police arrived.

Earlier, police thought that the critically injured man was Thoriq. But his identity has since been confirmed as Anwar, a relative of suspected militant Arif Hidayat who was arrested Monday (September 10th) in Bojonggede, Bogor, West Java, according to media reports.

A deadly “orphanage”

Based on the severity of his injuries, police think Anwar was making the bomb, perhaps even holding it, when the explosion occurred.

From the scene, police also seized three grenades, six pipes filled with explosive material, one Beretta pistol, homemade guns, small-arms ammunition, 7kg of potassium chlorate, nails, five 9-volt batteries, detonators, cables, and electronic switches.

Police also found some books related to terrorism and a goodbye letter at the scene.

A banner with the words Pondok Bidara Orphanage Foundation hung from the front of the building. Another sign indicated the place was an alternative “cupping therapy” clinic. However, local residents never saw any patients or orphans.

According to Joko, 60, a neighbourhood drinks seller, the person who rented the room had been living there since last month.

“I have never seen any activities because the gate was always locked. I tried to see the person to ask for the monthly rent, but I could not enter,” said Nurhassanah, 37, a community leader whose husband heads the neighbourhood watch (Rukun Tetangga/RT).

Boy said police had been monitoring activity at the house. It is not new for terrorists to use a business front to mask criminal activities, he said.

“Legitimate business activities have been used by terror suspects in many cases. In Wonosobo, for instance, they used their place to sell clothes,” he explained.

Boy said that people need to be aware of newcomers in their neighbourhoods because many terror suspects associate with the community and carry out normal activities.

“It is very important for the community chief to ask for and collect a copy of the identity card from new residents in their community,” he said.

New generation of terrorists shadowing Indonesia

Khabar Southeast Asia

New generation of terrorists shadowing Indonesia

Boy Rafli Amar, National Police spokesman, told reporters on Tuesday that the youthful terror suspects in Solo had links to older extremist organisations. [Elisabeth Oktofani/Khabar].

The young men who carried out the Idul Fitri attacks in Solo belonged to a new terror network with links to established groups, police say.

A new breed of radical extremists is posing a security threat to Indonesia, officials and analysts say, citing a recent series of attacks in Solo as an example.

Two young men, Farhan Mujahidin (19) and Mukhsin Sanny Permady (20), were shot dead by counterterrorism police during an August 31st raid, after allegedly staging assaults on police posts. A third suspect, Bayu Setiono, is under arrest.

According to Brigadier General Boy Rafli Amar, spokesman for the National Police, the men appear to belong to a newly-formed extremist group – but one which is affiliated with long-standing terror networks, and with the hardline Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT) organisation.

Farhan, for instance, was the stepson of convicted terrorist Abu Umar, currently in prison for smuggling firearms from the Philippines to Indonesia, and for organising a paramilitary training camp in 2008.

In 2010, police say, Farhan resided in the Philippines, where his stepfather obtained support for launching a terrorist attack, including plans to attack the Singaporean Embassy in Jakarta.

Bayu also had a connection with the Philippines, according to police. They say he was involved in smuggling firearms and had joined the Al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group.

Weapons seized during the August 31st raid included an Italian-made Beretta pistol stamped “PNP [Philippine National Police] property”. According to Boy, the suspects underwent physical training at Mount Merbabu in Boyolali district, and may have earlier received training in combat strategy at other camps in Aceh or Mindanao.

He said they targeted Solo, also known as Surakarta, because they were familiar with the location. But the city was just the starting point for a broader campaign of terror attacks.

“As they used to study at the Al-Mukmin Ngruki Islamic boarding school, they are familiar with the location and have contacts there where they can hide. Therefore, they could remove any trace of their presence more easily,” Boy said.

Andi Widjajanto, a security analyst from the University of Indonesia, told Khabar Southeast Asia on Wednesday (September 5) that terrorists have been targeting police and the Indonesian government ever since the execution of three Bali bombers in November 2008.

Amrozi, Ali Ghufron and Imam Samudra were found guilty and sentenced to death for their role in the 2002 Bali bombings, which killed 202 people. Speaking by phone to Khabar, acting JAT leader Mochammad Achwan denied that the terror suspects were members of his organisation.

“I have asked JAT members whether they knew the two suspects or not, but they said that they did not know them,” he said.”I am very upset that officials always link terror suspects with our organisation”.

JAT was founded by the firebrand cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, convicted in June 2011 and sentenced to 15 years in jail for helping to organise a jihadi training camp in Aceh. He is viewed as the chief ideologist and spiritual mentor of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), implicated in the Bali bombings.

On Friday, Indonesian counterterrorism chief Ansyaad Mbai said that JAT was linked to the Solo attacks as well as a planned assault on the Indonesian Parliament in Jakarta.

“There are several small groups (whose) underground works are not related to each other, but they all came from the JI and the JAT,” he told the AFP news agency, citing information revealed by Bayu during interrogation

Indonesians decry attack, call for acceptance of Shia minority

Khabar Southeast Asia

Indonesians decry attack, call for acceptance of Shia minority

People attend a candlelight vigil at Proclamation Monument in central Jakarta on Tuesday night (August 28th) to pray and show support for Shia Muslims in Sampang, Madura after local Sunni Muslims attacked the community, killing two men and burning dozens of homes. Hundreds attended the Malam Seribu Lilin (Night of a Thousand Candles). [Elisabeth Oktofani/Khabar].

Top figures urge the government to eliminate the misperception that Shia is not a legitimate branch of Islam.

Indonesians are condemning the latest attack on a Shia Muslim community in Sampang, Madura, and urging the government to state publicly that Shia is not a perversion of Islam.

Local Sunni Muslims attacked Karang Gayam village on the island Sunday (August 26th), killing two men and torching dozens of homes, causing hundreds to flee. The same Shia community was attacked in December 2011.

Commenting on the events, Minister of Religious Affairs Suryadharma Ali said that violence in the name of religion cannot be justified, and urged dialogue to resolve issues in the community.

“Religion teaches peace and does not teach violence. The different opinions of religion have always been there, including about Shia and Sunni. However, it does not mean that we can use it as a reason to conduct any violence against others,” he told Khabar Southeast Asia.

“Therefore, if there is a different opinion about some issue, it should be solved with constructive dialogue.”

Marzuki Alie, Speaker of the House of Representatives (DPR), called on the government and the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) to actively educate society about the Shia sect of Islam.

“It is clear to see that there is a misunderstanding in society [in claiming] that Shia is a perverted religion. The lack of understanding has caused misperceptions and triggered anarchy in the community,” he said.

“Therefore, it is very important that the Ministry of Religious Affairs and MUI explain to society the position of Shia in Islam, to eliminate threats to civil order,” Marzuki added.

OIC, Nahdlatul Ulama view Shia as legitimate

A top figure in the human rights community urged the government to disseminate “to all levels of government institutions throughout the nation” the stance of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC), which considers Shia a legitimate form of Islam.

“There is no reason to say that Shia is a perverted religion because the OIC considers Shia and Sunni to be the same,” said Choirul Anam, executive director of Human Rights Working Group (HRWG), a coalition of non-governmental organisations working in the field of human rights.

Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), a traditionalist Sunni group that is the largest Muslim organisation in Indonesia, also does not dispute the legitimacy of Shia as a branch of Islam – even though some of its members, particularly in East Java, appear to hold sectarian views not sanctioned by the organisation.

Sunni and Shia Muslims have the same God (Allah), the same prophet (Muhammad), and the same holy book (the Qur’an), NU deputy secretary general Imdadun Rahmat told Khabar.

“Even though Shias differ on who was to take over the leadership of the Muslim community after the Prophet died, we still consider Shia to be a part of Islam and we do not dismiss Shia,” he said.

Nusron Wahid, chairman of the youth movement of NU (Gerakan Pemuda Ansor/GP Ansor), told Khabar that GP Anshor condemns the attack in Sampang and is willing to raise funds to help the Shia community rebuild their houses.

“For the sake of human rights, we will help them to rebuild their houses. We are not going to see whether they are Shia or Sunni when we are helping them,” he went on.

“I would say that it is not our right to judge them whether they are right or wrong. Only Allah can judge their beliefs as Shia followers,” he added.

Assault suspects face grave charges

Police have arrested and investigated eight suspects allegedly involved in Sunday’s assault. The suspects are facing five charges including murder, assault, group assault, vandalism and participation in a crime.

“The mastermind of the attack, whose first initial is R, has also been arrested. There are still three more suspects at large. God willing, we will arrest them soon,” National Police Chief General Timor Pradopo told reporters on Monday.

Police also seized hundreds of sharp-edged weapons including sickles, machetes, and swords from the location of the attack.

Meanwhile, during a speech commemorating the 67th anniversary of Indonesia’s independence on August 17th, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono again stressed the importance of pluralism and tolerance in a nation as diverse as Indonesia.

“Our state should be the window of tolerance and harmony. It should not be the window of community conflict or horizontal violence,” he said