In Indonesia’s highly conservative province of Aceh, locals often take the law into their own hands. While the province’s self-appointed moral vigilantes often target young unmarried couples or people they suspect of being LGBT with the tacit support of police, in this latest incident of vigilante justice, the target was the police.
Yesterday afternoon, the police station in the Bendahara subdistrict of Aceh Tamiang was burned by an angry mob, as well as several police motorcycles and cars.
In a statement released by the Aceh Regional Police to the media, authorities said around 300 people came to the police station to vent their anger over the arrest and subsequent death of a 31-year-old man identified by his initials AY.
According to the police account, AY was arrested while selling two grams of methamphetamines on Sunday. AY told the officers there were more narcotics hidden elsewhere and offered to show them, so he went in a car with three police officers to the hiding location.
Police say AY attempted to strangle the car’s driver with his handcuffs, causing the vehicle to swerve to the side of the road. AY then attempted to escape but was caught by officers. Eventually they found the hidden methamphetamines which were then taken to the station.
The official account given by police is that AY was then fed by officers, after which he said he felt dizzy and became unconscious. He was taken to a local medical center and then a hospital but died, although the police account doesn’t explain the cause of death.
However, there are photos being circulated online that allegedly show AY’s corpse with what looks like traumatic bruising over large parts of his body, leading to accusations that he died after being viciously beaten by police officers.
Those accusations appear to have been the catalyst of the mob coming to the Bendahara Police Station to demand answers about AY’s death. The police chief tried to address the mob but the situation quickly spiraled out of control.
According to authorities, the mob was quelled by officers from the Aceh Tamiang Regional Police who quickly arrived on the scene and there were no injuries.
Aceh Regional Police spokesperson Misbahul Munauwar said that all Bendahara Police personnel had been secured and that the station chief, Ipda Iwan, would soon be replaced while the incident was investigated.
“The police chief and his members have been directly removed from the provincial police chief, they are still being processed at the moment,” Misbahul said as quoted by CNN Indonesia.