Salim Kancil had been leading a series of protests against a sand mining operation at Lumajang’s Watu Pecak Beach before he was attacked and killed in September 2015. (Antara Photo/Ari Bowo Sucipto)

Activists: Anti-Mining Farmer Was Tortured Before Murder

BY :DYAH AYU PITALOKA

SEPTEMBER 28, 2015

Malang, East Java. A slain farmer activist who had been leading a protest movement against mining activities in his East Java village may have been tortured before his death, a leading Indonesian human rights group said on Monday, calling on police to charge those involved with premeditated murder instead of assault.

Salim Kancil, a farmer from the village of Selok Awar-Awar in Lumajang district, died from his injuries on Saturday after he was attacked by at least a dozen men. The same group of men also mobbed Tosan, the coordinator of the Anti-Mining Farmers' Forum, who is now in critical condition.

Both victims have been leading a series of protests against a sand mining operation at nearby Watu Pecak beach.

The East Java office of human rights group Kontras said the two men were clearly targeted for their roles in the protests, pointing to the amount of abuse suffered by the victims.

Fatkhul Khoir, the East Java chairman of Kontras, said Salim was taken from his home.

“He was abused inside the Selok Awar-Awar village gathering hall and endured all sorts of torture. So clearly village officials are involved,” he said.

Citing reports from witnesses and doctors who performed a post-mortem examination on Salim's body, Fatkhul said Salim may have been electrocuted and beaten with a stick and a hoe before he had his neck slashed with a saw. He was killed, however, by a blow to his head with a rock.

Salim's body was then dumped in a field.

Tosan's wife Ati Hariyati said the assault on her husband occurred at 9 a.m. on Saturday after Tosan returned from a local police station to file for a permit to stage a demonstration.

“I was cooking at the time when I heard noises coming from outside. I went outside and saw my husband being mobbed by many people. I screamed for help and the mob fled after the neighbors came,” Ati said, as quoted by Kompas newspaper.

Ati said she knew several of the men who attacked her husband, identifying them as pro-mining locals.

Kontras is calling on law enforcers to thoroughly investigate the case and on the Witness and Victim Protection Agency (LPSK) to provide protection to witnesses and 200 other farmers who participated in the protests.

“They are prone to similar assaults and intimidation,” Fakthul said.

Police in East Java have arrested 18 people for their roles in the case but police have so far refused to confirm whether the assaults were directly linked to the victims' activities in protesting the mining activities.

The suspects have been charged for assault.

Mining activities in the area have been causing damage to the farmers' crops since they began in 2014, said Muhammad Haryadi, a student activist who has been helping affected farmers.

The local village chief, Haryadi said, initially told farmers that he was converting the beach into a tourist area and asked villagers to sign a letter of consent. But the letters of consent were actually for a mining activities, causing many to feel cheated and lied to.

The Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) has urged the government to revoke all permits related to the mining activities in the area, saying that miners there have used tricks and intimidation to retain their operation.

"The residents of Selok Awar-Awar have been intimidated for resisting mining operations in the village,” Walhi activist Muhnur Satyaprabhu told a press conference in Jakarta on Monday, as quoted by Detik.com news portal.

Walhi, Munhur said, is demanding the Ministry of Environment and Forestry and the local government conduct an audit on the mining permit, which it argued violates the local land and spatial planning regulation as well as the Law on the Environment and the Law on Mining. These stipulate that mining activities must be conducted far from residential areas.

The ministry “should also conduct an environmental assessment on the impacts of the mining operations and stop all [mining] activities,” he said.

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