Instances of mob violence still occur with alarming frequency in Indonesia, and not just in the country’s rural areas. Less than one week after a football fan died in the West Java capital of Bandung due to injuries he sustained after being mistakenly attacked by a group of his fellow Persib supporters, a man in Jakarta’s satellite city of Bekasi was beaten by an angry mob and burned alive for allegedly stealing speakers from a mosque.
The incident took place yesterday at around 5:30 pm, when a 30-year-old man, identified by police by his initials MA, was seen leaving Musala Al Hidayah in Bekasi’s Urip Jaya Village with three speakers.
Accusing him of stealing the speakers from the mosque, police say people in the area started chasing MA, who tried to get away on a motorcycle and even swam across a river to try and get away from the angry crowd.
But according to the police chronology, MA was eventually hit by a rock in the head and suffered a serious injury to his head. He was quickly set upon by the mob who beat him and eventually poured gasoline over him.
According to the police, they then set MA on fire while he was still alive.
Chronology of the events from the official Jakarta Police Facebook page
“The perpetrator suffered burns to up to 80 percent of his body and died on the spot,” Bekasi Police Public Relations Head Kunto Bagus said as quoted by BeritaSatu.
There is a post from a popular Indonesian news Facebook group, featuring pictures purporting to be those of MA’s corpse and his attackers (disturbingly, many children can be seen amongst the crowd) that alleges that MA was not a thief at all but a technician who had taken some of the speakers he was servicing to the mosque while he prayed. Although the post does not present any evidence for this beyond some FB comments, Merdeka interviewed one of MA’s neighbors who said the victim was indeed a service technician who often prayed at the mosque and doubted he would have stolen the amplifiers.
However, police have dismissed this possibility, saying that they had evidence that MA had in fact stolen the mosque’s speakers, including testimony from the mosque caretakers who first noticed that the amplifiers were missing.
In any case, police say that MA’s family accepted that he had committed the theft and thus accepted his horrific fate, refusing to press charges against any of the attackers and even refusing an autopsy on MA’s body.
Although the Bekasi police said that people should not take justice into their own hands and that they would continue investigating the case, based on previous mob violence incidences, it is likely that they will not prosecute any of those involved in MA’s murder, especially in the absence of charges pressed by the family.