Konradus Epa, Jakarta – Relatives of four women recently charged with criminal damage after throwing rocks at a tobacco factory in Indonesia's West Nusa Tenggara province have demanded government protection.
They said they were attacked and threatened by people opposed to their protest against the tobacco company in Wajageseng in Lombok Tengah district, which they said pollutes the air and makes their children ill.
The attacks and threats took place after the women were indicted in court and released on bail earlier this week.
Nurul Hidayah, 38, Martini, 22, Fatimah, 38, and Hultiah, 40, were arrested on Feb. 17 and thrown into a local jail along with their young children, sparking an outcry from rights and church groups.
They face a maximum seven-year prison sentence for allegedly throwing rocks at the factory owned by the Mawar Putra company on Dec. 26.
Because of the threats, the families said they must now seek safety under a government witness protection program.
"We are really scared by the intimidation coming by people backing the factory, so we are asking for protection while this legal process drags on," said Arian, 53, a relative of one of the women speaking on behalf of all four families
She said they and their houses had been pelted with stones and other threats had been made against them.
"There are people who oppose our protest even though they are also impacted by the pollution," she said.
Lilik Agustianingsih, from the Indonesian Women Coalition, has offered the families support. "We will lobby the government agency responsible for the protection program to ensure these people are kept safe," she told UCA News.
She called on police to act against those threatening the families.
Beka Ulung Hapsari, a commissioner of the National Commission of Human Rights, said protection should be provided if the family genuinely fear for their safety.
"However, such threats are criminal acts which need to be dealt with. These people should be protected by the law just like anyone else," he said.