Mon, 03 Jan 2000

Noegroho says 'brochures provoked Doulos burning'

JAKARTA (JP): Jakarta Police chief Maj. Gen. Noegroho Djajoesman said on Saturday that the arson attack on the Christian Doulos foundation late last year was in connection with anger sparked from the distribution of brochures on Christianity.

He said police found during their investigation that the foundation handed out brochures and circulars on Christianity to local residents and schools.

"The police found all these brochures and circulars which were distributed to local residents... they even reached schools. There are witnesses who saw the brochures distributed as well," Noegroho told The Jakarta Post.

"It was not only brochures... there were several things that had to do with Christianity. This matter could have been solved in a civil manner, but there was no communication between the angry parties and the Doulos foundation."

Some 300 people, armed with sharp weapons and Molotov cocktails, stormed the foundation complex in Cipayung, East Jakarta and burned some of the buildings to the ground on the evening of Dec. 15 after the Tarawih (the evening Muslim prayer during Ramadhan fasting month).

Noegroho also confirmed that one of the nine suspects being held by the city police is a former employee of the local Directorate of Social and Political Affairs (Ditsospol), while two others are University of Indonesia (UI) students, who are members of the Defenders of Islam Front (FPI).

"Sudarsono is the one from Ditsospol. I think he was assigned by his office to check out how far this foundation was going to distribute information about Christianity," Noegroho said.

"Of course, there were efforts to provoke anger between the parties. The anger had nothing to do with UI students being members of FPI. All the residents in the Cipayung area have an emotional attachment to the complex."

"Some residents are from Ciracas, some from Cilangkap. They are all close to one another and knew this problem very well."

Noegroho flatly denied that the Army was involved in the arson.

The foundation is about 500 meters from the Indonesian Military (TNI) headquarters in Cilangkap, East Jakarta. No military members were sent to the fire, which lasted until the early morning of Dec. 16.

The first eleven suspects detained for questioning were identified as Sumardi, Imam Saurozi, Untung, Anuri, Hamdi, Djainudin, Johan, Mislan, Taufik, Heri and H. Sanin, alias Sudarsono.

Of the 11, it is not clear which two suspects were recently released due to a lack of evidence.

"I cannot tell you all of that now," Noegroho said.

A source close to the investigation said that FPI and Doulos had not been on good terms lately.

"They (FPI) accused Doulos of handing out circulars every other week reporting the conversion of Muslims to Christians," the source said.

"Doulos not only helps drug addicts and patients suffering from mental illness, but they teach people about Christianity. That is not exactly conversion, but FPI got mad about it."

"Recently, one person -- we don't know from which group -- went to each house in the Jl. Tugu area, petitioning each household to sign a piece of paper, saying that residents did not like the complex being there. Not one resident signed."

When asked if it had anything to do with the foundation's building permit problem, the source said that was only a "cover- up to justify the burning."

"Ever since the building was built in 1997, the FPI has protested Doulos at City Hall, at the East Jakarta mayoralty office and other places. They always lead the protests," the source said. (ylt)