Indonesian police arrest sex abuse suspect after two years

Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) [Hong Kong]

July 8, 2022

By Ryan Dagur

Mounting public pressure finally leads to arrest of Islamic cleric’s son in a child molestation case

Indonesian police have arrested the son of a well-known Islamic cleric, more than two years after he was named in a child molestation case.

Police in Jombang from East Java province stormed the Shiddiqiyyah Islamic Boarding School to arrest 42-year-old Moch Subchi Azal Tsani and 35 of his supporters on July 7.

The school founded by the suspect’s father, Mursyid Thoriqoh Shiddiqiyyah, was surrounded by other supporters, many of whom stood reciting prayers at the gates to block the police.

Police called on them to let them inside but the supporters refused, sparking a scuffle in which one police officer reportedly sustained a minor wound to his arm.

The suspect had refused to be questioned and had eluded the police since he was accused of molesting a female student in November 2019. Local residents and students barricaded the school whenever police tried to arrest him. Shots were fired during the last arrest attempt on July 3.

The school was later closed by the Ministry of Religion Affairs and its students were to be transferred to another school nearby.

This decisive action, according to Waryono, the ministry’s Islamic Boarding School Education director, was taken because the school obstructed the legal process.

“Sexual abuse is not only a criminal act that violates the law, but is also behavior that is prohibited by religious teachings,” he said. 

This week, a video was released showing the suspect’s father telling a police officer that his son was a victim of slander and that the allegations “were only family matters.”

The video went viral on social media and sparked public outrage leading to calls for the arrest of the suspect.

Siti Aminah Tardi, head of the National Commission on Violence against Women, appealed to the police to help the victim instead of being intimidated by those accused of the crime.

A Catholic father whose son was sexually abused by a jailed Church worker in Herkulanus Parish in Bogor Diocese said he was delighted to hear the news of the arrest, though it was only after public pressure mounted on the police.

“This action gives hope that any abuser can be brought to justice. This case also shows that public support is crucial. I am pleased that there is growing concern about sexual abuse,” he said.

The accused in that case at a parish in Bogor Diocese was sentenced to 15 years in jail in January 2021, while in another case, a Catholic brother was jailed for 14 years for sexually assaulting boys at an orphanage near the capital Jakarta.

Moves to combat sex crimes have gathered pace in Indonesia in recent years.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Research and Technology issued guidelines for preventing and handling sexual crimes on campuses in November 2021.

A month later, the National Council for Catholic Education also issued similar guidelines for Catholic schools across the country.

In April, the Indonesian parliament passed a long-awaited Sexual Violence Bill, first submitted in 2016.

The Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry has recorded 10,247 acts of violence against women and 14,517 against children in 2021. Of these, 15.2 percent and 45.1 percent respectively were sexually motivated.