Aries Sudiono & Telly Nathalia, Jakarta – East Java Police on Wednesday charged Tri Susanti a.k.a. Susi, the woman behind an incident in Surabaya, East Java, on Aug, 17 which saw an angry mob besiege a boarding house occupied by Papuan students, with hate speech.
The racist incident, in which the mob called the Papuan students "monkeys", sparked violent protests in Papua and West Papua.
The mob who laid siege to the boarding house on Jalan Kalasan had accused the students of refusing to hoist the national flag for the Independence Day celebrations because they supported Papuan separatism.
Tri was interrogated by the police for 11 hours on Monday. She was asked a total of 28 questions by the interrogators before being charged with hate speech under the Information and Electronic Transactions Law.
"The East Java Police are also investigating allegations that my client Tri Susanti has been spreading hate speech on WhatsApp," Tri's lawyer Sahid said on Tuesday.
Sahid said Tri was interrogated along with five other witnesses. "However, the digital recording that was presented as evidence during the interrogation did not show my client spreading any sort of hate speech," Sahid said.
Tri was a member of an association of families of retired military officers called the Communication Forum for Indonesian Veterans' Children (FKPPI), based in Surabaya.
She was fired by the organization for her involvement in the racist incident on Aug. 17.
As of Tuesday, police have questioned 64 witnesses, including 42 Papuan students, during their investigation of the incident.
East Java Police spokesman Comr. Frans Barung Mangera told Jakarta Globe on Wednesday evening that Tri is now a suspect in the investigation. "The East Java Police chief will announce it officially tomorrow at 9 a.m.," he said.
Meanwhile, five military officers who were present at the scene of the incident have been suspended and put in Military Police detention to be interrogated.
Police have also charged 10 people with damaging public facilities in Timika and Manokwari in Papua and West Papua during a series of violent demonstrations on Aug. 19.