Man with gun at Jakarta tolerance rally identified as police officer

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 June, 2008, 12:00am

A man filmed drawing his handgun to ward off Islamic radicals during a pro-religious-tolerance rally in Jakarta earlier this month has been identified as a police officer.

The rally was in support of constitutionally enshrined religious freedoms and the Ahmadiyah Islamic sect, which has been branded as heretical by some local Muslim institutions because it does not recognise Mohammed as the last prophet.

Protesters were attacked by radicals of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) and the Betawi Brotherhood Forum (FBR), two groups that emerged in the dwindling days of the Suharto era in 1998.

The man with a gun is shown in a video confiscated from the home of Munarman, the leader of the FPI, one of 10 FPI members in custody.

Leaders of both radical groups branded the armed man as an agitator and blamed him for provoking the violence. The FBR had even offered a reward of at least 100 million rupiah (HK$84,000) for his capture.

However, National Police spokesman Abubakar Nataprawira said that the man was Chief Brigadier Iskandar Saleh and that he had gone to the rally to accompany his wife, child and mother-in-law, who are Ahmadis.

'Iskandar was not a provocateur and the video shows that the violence started before he took out his gun,' he said.

Mr Abubakar added that the police were still investigating whether the gun was a toy, something allegedly claimed by Brigadier Iskandar.

Indonesian current affairs magazine Tempo confirmed that Brigadier Iskandar drew his gun after he was attacked by a dozen rioters.

Meanwhile, Munarman has lodged a human-rights violation report against the police to the National Commission on Human Rights, accusing them of excessively handling the incident at the rally.

Commissioner Saharudin Daming told news agency Antara that Munarman's request would be reviewed at the next plenary meeting.