Tue, 18 Apr 2000

Mob says restaurant a front for prostitution

TANGERANG (JP): A restaurant manager, his assistant and a cashier suffered wounds after hundreds of people, including local residents, stormed the three-story building on Sunday evening, a police officer said on Monday.

The officer, who asked not to be named, said the attackers, mostly members of a Muslim group called Hisbullah Front, accused the owner of Citra Kuring restaurant, which uses its second and third stories for a dangdut music hall, of operating prostitution in the building, which is located in the Sastra Plaza shopping center in the Keroncong subdistrict of Jatiuwung, Tangerang.

He identified those injured in the attack as manager Yogi, 30, assistant manager Herman, 35, and cashier Eva, 19.

"Herman received a 50-centimeter slash wound believed to have been caused by a sword, Yogi suffered several bruises and Eva received a light wound," the officer said.

None of the management or employees of the restaurant could be reached on Monday for comment.

Jatiuwung Police chief Lt. Budi Hermawan confirmed the incident and regretted that people used violence to settle their grievances with the restaurant.

"Whatever their reasons, vandalizing places, such as entertainment spots, has never been allowed. It's totally against the law," Budi said, vowing to investigate the case thoroughly.

He did not say if his detectives had questioned or arrested any of the attackers.

Witnesses said some 200 members of the Hisbullah Front, led by the group's chairman, Cecep Bustomi, arrived at the restaurant at about 9 a.m. shouting about the alleged prostitution taking place in the building.

Dozens of locals joined the group, which brought banners and delivered speeches in front of the restaurant.

"This is not a restaurant but a place offering immoral things. The restaurant is just to camouflage the illegal business," one of the protesters said.

Several minutes later the mob forced its way into the restaurant as dozens of diners fled in panic.

The mob then began to vandalize the building, breaking mirrors and items on all three of the buildings floors.

"Manager Yogi and his assistant initially attempted to stop the people who were running amok," said the officer.

However, he said the mob could not be reasoned with. "They just beat the two and wounded the female cashier."

The mob left the building after the arrival of dozens of riot officers from the Tangerang Police.

Such attacks on places of businesses have increased in frequency across the country since the May 1998 riots.

Following the attack on Sunday, senior members of Hisbullah Front told the Tangerang authorities to stop the sex business in the mayoralty, particularly those businesses operating under the camouflage of legal enterprises.

"If the Tangerang administration fails to keep the entertainment spots that run immoral businesses in order, we'll have to act," group member Nasim said.

He cited a number of entertainment places, particularly karaoke halls in the Pinangsia Lippo Karawaci shopping and office complex, as examples.

"We are already tired of the Tangerang administration not paying attention to the presence of these illicit businesses.

"Now many foreigners have invested their money in this immoral business. We don't want Tangerang, a religious town, to be damaged by the interests of certain people," Nasim said. (41/bsr)