Fears for Man Who Filmed Java Mob Attack
A man who risked his life to film a mob brutally lynching members of his minority Islamic sect is in grave danger and has gone into hiding, rights activists said on Friday.
The harrowing video of Sunday’s attack shocked the mainly Muslim nation and graphically illustrated rising levels of intolerance and violence directed at religious minorities such as the Ahmadiyah sect.
It showed police running away as hundreds of Muslim thugs screaming “Allahu akbar” (God is great) attacked a house belonging to an Ahmadiyah leader. Three sect members were stabbed, clubbed and stoned to death.
“There was a warning from the national police detective that if the man appears in public, his life could be in danger,” National Human Rights Commission deputy chairman Joseph Adi Prasetyo told reporters.
“Based on information from the police intelligence unit, the situation was very dangerous and could lead to his death.”
The commission cancelled a press conference with the man, identified only as a civil servant called Arif, due to the unspecified threats. Arif was seen being led away to secure location wearing dark sunglasses.
National police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar confirmed that Arif, a member of the Ahmadiyah community, which numbers in the hundreds of thousands in Indonesia, was under police protection.
“Arif is being questioned as a witness related to the Cikeusik incident,” he added.
Ahmadiyah differ from orthodox Muslims in that they do not believe Mohammed was the last prophet. Under pressure from hardliners in 2008, the government issued a decree restricting their religious freedoms.
Police earlier five people had been arrested over the lynching in Cikeusik village, West Java province, and others seen in the video were being hunted down.
More than 1,000 extremist Muslims took part in the assault, armed with machetes, sticks and stones, and wearing blue ribbons to identify themselves from their targets.
Arif filmed them entering the front yard and pushing police aside with shouts of “infidel” and “burn Ahmadiyah.”
A small group of Ahmadiyah inside responded with rocks and punches but were quickly overwhelmed.
Apparently mistaken for a journalist by the mob, Arif kept filming as the attackers began destroying the house and hunting down any defenders who had tried to flee.
One half-naked man was filmed being clubbed and stoned to death in the yard, while the bodies of two others were filmed being clubbed, stoned and otherwise defiled as onlookers laughed and took photographs.
Police knew of the attack but failed to intervene to protect Ahmadiyah. The footage shows police fleeing the initial clash and milling around in the mob passively observing the mayhem.
A police spokesman said that provincial police chief Agus Kusnadi, who supervised the area, had been demoted.
“The demotion was caused by the interest of the organisation. There was a system that did not run well,” police spokesman Anton Bachrul Alam said.
Similar attacks in the past have been attributed to Ahmadiyah “provocations,” and while some Muslim leaders have tried to blame the victims again this week the film speaks for itself.
Two days later another mob of enraged Muslims rampaged through the streets of Temanggung, Central Java, and set fire to churches after a Christian man was jailed for insulting Islam. The crowd wanted him executed.
Police said eight people had been arrested over the incident.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has ordered the police to go “all-out” against any extremist groups behind the unrest, although none has claimed responsibility.
Human rights activists say the ex-general has repeatedly failed to tackle the sources of intolerance in the country of 240 million people, 80 percent of whom are Muslims.Filed under: Headlines