Police won’t bring murder charges over transgender burned to death

Police say suspects had accused the woman of stealing and doused her with petrol. (File pic)

JAKARTA: Indonesian police said on Wednesday they would not bring murder charges against suspects accused of killing a transgender woman by dousing her with petrol and setting her on fire.

The 43-year-old died on Sunday from burns sustained in the incident a day earlier. Her death was reported by Indonesian media on Tuesday.

Police said on Wednesday they believed the suspects who set the fire had not burned her intentionally. They identified six suspects, three of whom had been arrested.

Budhi Herdi Susianto, the North Jakarta police chief, said the suspects had accused the woman of stealing and doused her with petrol. One of the suspects had lit a match, but did not intend to burn her, the police chief said.

The suspects could be charged with physical violence, carrying a maximum sentence of 12 years.

Usman Hamid, the Indonesian representative of Amnesty International, told Reuters it seemed too early for the police to conclude that there was no intent to set the woman on fire.

“The police need to take investigative actions that are impartial and independent. They can’t seem like the perpetrators’ lawyers,” he said.

Andreas Harsono, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, said the incident was indicative of a rise in hostility and vilification of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

“Her death should be a reminder to many Indonesians that transgender women deserve justice and equal rights,” he said.

“Thousands of transgender women, gay men or lesbian women have been humiliated in Indonesia these past few years.”

Homosexuality is not regulated by law in Indonesia, except in Aceh province where same-sex relations are banned under sharia law. But growing social and religious conservatism has driven escalating vitriol toward sexual minorities in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country.

Indonesia’s transgender community is locally known as “waria” – a combination of the Indonesian words for “woman” and “man”.