For months Deden Sujana had to be treated in a Jakarta hospital. He was put on life support as doctors raced to save his right hand, which was nearly severed during a deadly attack on members of the Muslim minority sect Ahmadiyah in February.
Now in jail for provoking the attack and still facing intimidation, Deden told the Jakarta Globe in an interview on Thursday that when a mob of 1,500 descended upon an Ahmadi’s house in Cikeusik, Banten, he was prepared to die.
“Let’s die together,” Deden said, recalling the words he told an Ahmadi friend as the two were lying on the ground bleeding, while men armed with machetes, bamboo sticks and rocks continued to beat their ailing bodies.
“I was stabbed in the chest,” he said, adding that the blade just missed his heart. “Doctors said I should have been dead. It is a miracle of God that I am still alive.”
Deden’s wrist was slashed by a machete when he was trying to protect his head during the attack. There is now a long scar encircling it. Although doctors managed to reattach Deden’s hand, he has lost feeling in most parts of it.
He said his hand would never fully recover. Only his thumb and index finger are still functioning properly, and he regularly feels intense pain.
When asked who attacked him, Deden said: “I remember, it was Idris.”
He was referring to Idris bin Mahdani, who in August was sentenced to five and a half months in prison for possession of a machete, but not for attacking Deden. Just weeks after his conviction, Idris was released.
Instead, the Serang District Court put the blame for the attack on Deden, claiming he refused to vacate the building and thereby provoked the assault that left three Ahmadis dead. Last month, Deden received a harsher penalty than Idris: six months in jail.
Deden has refused to lodge an appeal, however, saying that with just two months before his release, the legal move would be useless. There was also concern that his appeal would only cause more controversy and lead to more hatred of Ahmadis, who have already suffered more than 160 attacks across the country over the last decade.
Kiagus Ahmad, Deden’s lawyer from the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Jakarta), said he respected his client’s decision, but there was a downside.
“Deden’s decision is setting a bad precedent. If every victim like him does the same thing, people will think that it is OK for [victims] to be criminalized,” he said. He added that Deden’s decision in the long run could further endanger minority groups.
Deden said he was concerned about the threats and intimidation he continued to face, even behind bars.
Since his trial began last month, Deden said several people claiming to represent the local administration had approached him before trial sessions. They said he could have his charges dropped or given a lenient sentence if he renounced his faith as an Ahmadi.
Prison officials now keep a close eye on Deden, who faces insults and intimidation from the rest of the prison population.
“There are many people — inside and outside this jail — who want me dead,” he said.
“The hardest intimidation came from Serang Police,” Deden added, referring to the deputy chief of Serang City Police, Adj. Comr. Jajang.
He would not specify the intimidation allegedly carried out.
The chief of Serang District Police, Adj. Sr. Comr. Krisnandi, challenged Deden to come up with evidence. “What Deden has said about the intimidation was not credible. Nobody has been able to show us there was truth to the claims,” Krisnandi said.
Kiagus maintained that the intimidation proved that law enforcers have been biased in their treatment of the minority group, which mainstream Muslim organizations deem deviant.
Andreas Harsono, an Indonesian consultant for New York-based Human Rights Watch, urged the police and the National Police Commission to investigate Deden’s statement about the attack by Idris as well as his claims of harassment and intimidation by police officials.
Andreas reiterated that the court had not been fair toward Ahmadiyah. The HRW consultant highlighted the court’s refusal to put the survivors of the attack on the witness stand.
“There were many irregularities in the Cikeusik trial, but it’s Deden Sujana’s choice to appeal or not to appeal. He needed to consider the possibility of a higher sentence on appeal. He has his family to be with,” Andreas said.
Copyright 2010 The Jakarta Globe