Zaky Pawas, Arientha Primanita & Ulma Haryanto
Jakarta. The Jakarta Police have arrested a leader of a hard-line Islamic group as a suspect in the Sunday attack on members of a church congregation in Bekasi that left two people seriously injured.
Murhali Barda, the head of the Bekasi chapter of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), is accused of provoking the attack against leaders of the Batak Christian Protestant Church (HKBP) in Ciketing.
A church elder was stabbed and a reverend severely beaten while walking to a field to hold their weekly service. The congregation had been forced to pray outdoors after the Bekasi administration in June sealed the house where they worshiped.
The move came as officials said the group would be banned from using the field for future services.
“Following the interrogation, our investigators have named Murhali Barda as a suspect, for provocation,” police spokesman Sr. Comr. Boy Rafli Amar told the Jakarta Globe .
Boy said Murhali, the 10th suspect in the case so far, may face charges of violating four articles of the criminal code — inciting people to violence, group violence, maltreatment and a premeditated attempt to cause serious injuries.He faces up to 12 years in jail.
Murhali had been in detention since being named a suspect late on Tuesday, Boy said.
The FPI leader was not at the scene of the crime but he was accused of inciting and provoking one of the other suspects, AF, who allegedly coordinated the attack.
“However, we still cannot determine who did the stabbing,” Boy said. “There is the possibility of more arrests. We need to investigate this further.”
Last month, the Associated Press quoted Murhali as saying: “The Batak Christians deserve to be stabbed to death.” He was speaking at a protest during one of the church’s services.
West Java Governor Ahmad Heryawan, speaking after meeting the Jakarta Police and Bekasi Mayor Mochtar Muhammad, said the HKBP would be banned from the field in Ciketing.
“We are going to offer two other locations for the congregation to use to ensure their safety,” Ahmad said. “We are looking for the best solution that will provide safety to all. We want the best for all of us.”
Mochtar said the Bekasi administration had offered to sell the church a 2,500-square-meter plot near a government housing complex and 1,984- square-meter site in nearby Mustika Sari on which to hold their services.
Bekasi Police chief Sr. Comr. Imam Sugianto vowed to ensure the safety of the congregation so long as they “pray at the appointed locations as recommended by the coordination meeting.”