Members of the notorious Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) attend a rally in Jakarta in this 2017 file photo. (Photo: Ryan Dagur/UCA News)
Activists and religious leaders have called on the Indonesian government to form an independent fact-finding team to investigate the deadly police shooting this week of six members of the notorious hardline group the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI).
The call comes after both sides gave differing accounts about the incident.
The six FPI members were shot dead in Cikampek, in West Java on Dec. 7 while they were escorting Muhammad Rizieq Shihab, their leader, who was wanted by police for questioning over alleged Covid-19 social distancing violations.
Four other members of the group reportedly fled the scene.
Jakarta Police Chief, Fadil Imran claimed police officers opened fire on the FPI members in self-defense.
"[They] threatened officers by pointing guns and sharp weapons such as samurai swords and sickles at them," Fadil said.
Weapons allegedly carried by the dead men were shown by the police to the press.However, an FPI spokesman claimed the group’s members were unarmed and accused police of manipulating the facts.
The differing claims prompted calls for an independent inquiry.
Fatia Maulidiyanti, chairwoman of the country’s Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence called for a probe involving the National Human Rights Commission, the National Police Commission, and the Ombudsman.
“They must carry out a direct and in-depth independent investigation into the shooting," she said.
A group calling itself Indonesia Police Watch said the gravity of the situation and the accusations being made required an independent probe.
"The explanations provided by the police and the FPI differ greatly," said Neta S. Pane, the group’s chairman.
The Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace called the shooting a very disturbing incident that should not have happened.
"But if it is true that the weapons shown by the police belonged to the FPI members, then the police action against the attackers can be accepted," he said.
He also called on Shihab, who is accused of holding mass gatherings that flouted social distancing rules, to cooperate with the police.
Petrus Selestinus, the Catholic head of the Task Force Team for Pancasila Guard Advocates Forum, a group dedicated to protecting secularism in Indonesia, said the case was an important lesson for all parties, including the FPI, not to think that they are above the law.
"We hope that the police's actions will be an important lesson so that all of us comply with the law," he said.