2 men suspected of burning transwoman alive charged with aggravated assault

Photo: Pexels.
Photo: Pexels.

Two men who allegedly burned a 43-year-old transwoman alive in North Jakarta on Saturday has been charged with aggravated assault leading to her death, police say, and not murder, as outrage grows over the authorities’ handling of the case.

Speaking to the press yesterday, North Jakarta Police Chief Budhi Herdi Susianto said that the suspects have been charged with aggravated assault in accordance with Article 170 Point 2 in the Criminal Code (KUHP). The article states that aggravated assault that causes the death of the victim is a crime punishable by up to 12 years in prison.

By comparison, the deliberate act to commit murder, as stated in Article 338, is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, whereas premeditated murder, as stated in Article 340, is punishable by the death penalty or up to 20 years in prison.

Budhi said there was no evidence that the suspects intended to kill the transwoman, who has been identified by local media outlets as Mira.

According to Budhi, based on the police’s investigation of the case so far, the incident began late on Friday at a container warehouse in North Jakarta. A truck driver, identified by his initials KM, told a security guard at the warehouse, AG, that his bag, containing his wallet and phone, was missing.

“They suspected that [the thief] was the victim because before the items vanished the victim went to KM for a cigarette light and a chat,” Budhi said, as quoted by CNN Indonesia.

AG then picked up Mira early on Saturday and took her to a bus station. There, he and four other men, including a man identified as AB, violently assaulted the victim while she maintained her innocence.

The perpetrators then doused Mira with gasoline. At this point, police do not believe that the perpetrators actually intended to burn Mira alive, instead concluding that one of the suspects lit a match nearby, which inadvertently set her on fire.

Budhi said the perpetrators tried to put out the fire and immediately fled the scene afterwards. Mira was later found and taken to Koja Regional General Hospital, where she succumbed to her injuries on Sunday.

AG and AB were later arrested and charged with aggravated assault causing death. Though KM was detained, police reportedly have not charged him as he was not directly involved in Mira’s assault. Three other suspects are still on the run as of today.

Though police have yet to rule transphobia as a possible motive in Mira’s murder (yes, we’re still calling it that), the possibility has not escaped the suspicions of rights activists given the suspects’ unusually lenient charges.

“The police need to take investigative actions that are impartial and independent. They can’t seem like the perpetrators’ lawyers,” Amnesty International Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid told Reuters.

Transphobia is depressingly common in Indonesia, with transpeople often the subject of abuse and persecution, sometimes in the hands of authorities. For example, in November 2018, three transwomen in the Indonesian province of Lampung were hosed down using a fire truck by local authorities in order to cleanse their “impurities”; another case in the Jakarta satellite city of Bekasi saw two transwomen beaten up and stripped by 50 young men.

In 2018, Human Rights Watch released a report highlighting the disturbing rise in discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals in Indonesia.

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