February 26, 2006
Activists to continue 'surveying' foreigners
Yuli Tri Suwarni, The Jakarta Post
Twenty-seven Muslim activists, who were released by police in Bandung on Saturday after being detained for "disturbing" foreign nationals during a protest, vowed to continue with their actions.
The activists said they would continue distributing questionnaires to foreign nationals to gauge their opinions of the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.
However, police said the activists would again be detained if they attempted to hand out the questionnaires, which they said was a violation of the privacy of foreign residents and tourists.
Among the 27 people detained Friday were Muhammad Mukmin, the coordinator of the Anti-Apostasy Movement, a group involved in shutting down churches in West Java, as well as members of the Islam Defenders Front and other hard-line groups.
Police made the arrests outside the Holiday Inn hotel on Jl. Juanda, where the activists were searching for foreign nationals to question.
A minor scuffle broke out when some of the activists refused to get into trucks to be transported to Bandung Police Headquarters. However, police quickly gained control of the situation and the men were taken to police headquarters.
The activists said the questionnaires were intended to gauge the opinion of the foreign nationals to the Prophet cartoons, with anyone found to be "hostile toward Islam" to be ordered out of Indonesia.
Mukmin told a press conference Saturday police questioned the activists for five hours, and released them after determining "the protest was legal".
"After cross-checking with the permit section, they found our letter (informing the police of the planned protest). We even sent copies of the letter to West Java Police Headquarters and the West Java Military commander," Mukmin said.
He said the activists would distribute the questionnaires at international hotels in Bandung, including the Hyatt Regency and the Holiday Inn.
However, Bandung Police chief Sr. Comr. Edmon Ilyas said officers would prevent the activists from handing out the questionnaires because it had the potential to cause unrest and disturb tourists.
"They do not have any authority to do this. If they were allowed to just do what they liked, everybody would be able to do whatever they wished as well. The security of foreign tourists must be ensured to prevent our image from being tarnished internationally," Edmon said.