Mon, 29 Dec 2003

PKB politician killed by family member, says suspect

ID Nugroho, The Jakarta Post, Surabaya

A family member masterminded the killing of a National Awakening Party (PKB) politician in Lumajang regency in East Java, alleges a key suspect.

Sunarto Edy Wibowo, a lawyer representing suspect Lora Anshori in the murder case, said here recently his client had told him that he and five accomplices had been promised Rp 30 million (US$3400) from a man named Durahim "to phase out" Asmuni Ishak, a Muslim cleric and PKB chief patron in the regency.

During police interrogation on Saturday, Sunarto said Anshori was unwilling to speak freely to investigators but had confided in him that he and five other suspects had been hired by Durahim to "pose a serious threat" to the victim.

Durahim, who owns a gold shop in the town, claims to be related to Asmuni as his wife and the victim's wife are sisters.

"My client told me during the police interrogation that Durahim masterminded the crime after becoming involved in a dispute with the victim over a plot of land on which a musholla (small mosque) stands. It is located behind Asmuni's house.

"Anshori and five others initially planned to just threaten to kill Asmuni. They didn't intent to kill him, but he died after being struck on the head with a crowbar," Sunarto said.

Asmuni's murder created controversy when PKB claimed it was a revival of a killing spree of Muslim clerics in which scores died several years ago. Former president Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid, PKB chief patron, has condemned the murder as a tactic to foil the 2004 elections. However, the police say the killing was purely a crime with no political motive behind it, despite nothing being stolen from Asmuni's house.

Meanwhile, Asmuni's brother, Nur Wahid, claims not to know Durahim.

"As far as I know, none of us (Asmuni's relatives) have ever been involved in a dispute over land near the mosque. Indeed, we appointed our brother Asmuni, as the eldest among us, to be a preacher in the musholla," Nur Wahid said.

The killing occurred on Nov. 27 when six men armed with machetes broke into the victim's house and hacked him to death. Asmuni's wife Siti Mutmainah survived but was seriously wounded in the attack.

The police arrested Anshori in neighboring Jember regency at the home of local resident Atmadin from Karang Tengah village in Jembersari, Sumberbaru subdistrict.

The remaining suspects -- Hudi, Sipur, Mahbur, Dultasi, Syaiful and Durasman -- are still at large.

Responding to the controversy, Lumajang Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Syarief Nursal said the police would continue investigating the case and probe the possibility that Anshori may have been involved in the murder.