Indonesian police have announced they will not bring murder charges of several men accused of setting a transgender woman on fire, stating that they do not believe the act was intentional.
The 43-year-old victim, known as Mira, died last Sunday from burns sustained after she was attacked by a group of five or six men in the Cilincing area of North Jakarta.
The men allegedly attacked Mira after a truck driver accused her of stealing his wallet and cellphone, which had been left in a vehicle parked outside of Mira’s room, reports the Hong Kong-based newspaper Suara.
According to police, the men hit Mira with a wooden log and knocked her down before pouring gasoline on her. One man pulled out a lighter to threaten her, but the lighter inadvertently set off the gasoline.
“I said, ‘Don’t pour gasoline on her. She’s a human being,'” O.N., a neighbor who witnessed the attack, said. “They didn’t listen to me. There was little I could do.”
Mira later died of her injuries at a North Jakarta hospital.
North Jakarta Police Chief Budhi Herdi Susianto later said six suspects — three of who had been arrested — had been charged with aggravated assault, instead of murder, because police do not believe the men intended to set Mira on fire.
If found guilty, the six men could face up to 12 years in prison, reports Reuters.
Usman Hamid, the Indonesian representative of Amnesty International, told Reuters that it was too early for police to conclude that the mob hadn’t intended to set Mira on fire.
“The police need take investigative actions that are impartial and independent,” he said. “They can’t seem like the perpetrators’ lawyers.”
The Sandya Institute, an organization that advocates for the rights of sexual minorities, condemned the attack and urged the government to protect the transgender community from violence and harassment.
“We at Sandya Institute condemn this incident and demand justice for Mira,” the group’s executive director, Roberto, said in a statement. “It should also be noted that a transgender was set on fire during the COVID-19 crisis, which has put additional pressure on transgender people.”
Andreas Harsono, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, said the incident was indicative of a rise in hostility against, and vilification of, the LGBTQ community in Indonesia.
“Thousands of transgender women, gay men or lesbian women have been humiliated in Indonesia these past few years,” Harsono said. “[Mira’s] death should be a reminder to many Indonesians that transgender women deserve justice and equal rights.”
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