Jakarta – Police in Gowa, South Sulawesi, have arrested 10 people for allegedly beating a man to death on Dec. 10 in the country's latest case of deadly mob violence.
The victim, identified as 23-year-old student Muhammad Khaidir, was attacked by a mob inside a mosque after he was falsely accused of being a thief.
The Gowa Police confirmed that Muhammad was not suspected of any felony. He was a resident of Selayar regency and a student at Makassar's East Indonesia University. He was reportedly in Gowa en route to visit a cousin in Jeneponto, South Sulawesi.
According to the police, the incident began when the victim went to the mosque at around 2 a.m. to observe tahajud, a voluntary night prayer, and found it locked. He then knocked on the door of a nearby resident, identified as YDS, to ask him to open mosque.
YDS reportedly became angry at Muhammad for knocking on his door and reprimanded him. Muhammad, the police said, apparently ignored the admonishment and left.
YDS then rushed to the mosque caretaker, identified as RDN, who announced on the mosque's loudspeaker that a thief was at the mosque, kompas.com reported.
The neighborhood residents started gathering at the mosque in response to the announcement. Muhammad, unaware that he was the accused, also joined the crowd at the mosque, which immediately attacked him. A video of the mob attack has been circulating on social media.
YDS and RDN are among the 10 people the police have arrested in connection with the incident. "All suspects have been charged with Article 170 of the Criminal Code on mob violence, with a maximum punishment of 12 years in prison," National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Dedi Prasetyo said, as quoted by kompas.com on Monday.
The victim's family was shocked by the incident and had asked police to investigate, Gowa Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Shinto Silitonga said, as quoted by ntmcpolri.info on Tuesday.
Sunardy Selayar, a Facebook user who claimed to be a family friend, wrote that the young man [Muhammad] had no criminal record and had recently started observing tahajud.
Sunardy questioned the allegations circulating on social media that Muhammad went berserk at the mosque before he was killed by the mob, and accused the allegations as a "false narrative" that the perpetrators had fabricated to justify their "inhumane" violence.
"If anything, taking the law into our own hands without tabayyun [seeking clarification] is utterly forbidden in our country, let alone in Islam,' he posted.
Mob lynching is not uncommon in Indonesia. In August 2017, Muhammad Azahra, 37, was killed by angry residents of Babelan in Bekasi, West Java, after he was accused of stealing an amplifier from a local musholla (small prayer house). The mob chased the electronics repairman as he attempted to flee on his motorcycle, beat him and set fire to him.
The police arrested six people as suspects, who were later tried, found guilty and sentenced to between seven and eight years for the brutal killing.