Nurdin Hasan, Banda Aceh – Hundreds of angry villagers in Manggi, West Aceh, on Saturday raided a subdistrict police station they believed was being used as a brothel and attacked a naked couple found inside, officials said on Sunday.
Teuku Abdurrazak, operational commander of the district's Shariah Police, said the villagers had been suspicious of the police station in Panton Reue subdistrict after a number of women were observed going there at all hours of the night.
Abdurrazak said the villagers could "no longer tolerate this" and were "in an emotional state" before taking it upon themselves to raid the police station, where they found an unmarried man and woman who were in a state of undress. The man was severely beaten by the villagers, while the woman was repeatedly slapped, he added.
The pair were identified as Divan Abu Kasem, 29, and Raida Yusuf, 25, both residents of West Aceh but not from Panton Reue. "From our preliminary investigation, Raida is suspected of being a sex worker," Abdurrazak said.
The policeman who was suspected by the villagers of having operated the brothel from the police station reportedly escaped when the post was raided, while another officer not suspected of involvement was not harmed by the mob. The policeman who fled the scene is believed to be an acquaintance of Raida.
According to Abdurrazak, Shariah Police personnel managed to rescue Divan from the enraged mob. "If we had been any later, it might have been a lot worse," he said.
"Divan was attacked by the angry mob because the reputation of their village was tarnished by those immoral acts, which cannot be tolerated by the Acehnese people."
Divan was treated at Cut Nyak Dhien General Hospital in the district capital, Meulaboh, Abdurrazak said. He needed five stitches for a head wound and sustained extensive bruising over his entire body.
Raida has been detained at the West Aceh Police headquarters. If the pair are proven to have violated regional bylaws on vice, they could face between three to nine public lashings. The officer suspected of operating the brothel was also arrested and detained.
"The policeman who provided the place has been detained and will have to face the law," Abdurrazak said. "The West Aceh Police chief has promised that he will not intervene."
West Aceh is the only district in Aceh to have banned women from wearing tight pants and men from wearing shorts. A local regulation issued by the district head earlier this year requires women to wear long, loose-fitting skirts in public.
Abubakar, Manggi's village head, said residents had been outraged that such activities had been occurring in their neighborhood. After having staked out the police station on Friday evening, he said the villagers decided to raid the post after a woman was seen entering alone.
"It turns out that our suspicions that this police station was being used as a place for such immoral activities was true, and we found a man and woman, both undressed, inside," he said.
Aceh was granted wide-ranging autonomy under a peace pact signed in August 2005 that ended decades of separatist conflict. As part of the deal, the province was allowed to implement regulations based on Shariah law.