An Australian man is facing more than a year in jail after allegedly spitting in the face of an imam at an Indonesian mosque.
Brenton Craig Abbas Abdullah McArthur has been charged over the alleged assault at a mosque in Bandung that was captured on CCTV.
The footage has gone viral and shows a man wearing a baseball cap entering the mosque and talking to the imam before appearing to spit in his face. The imam flees as the man casually walks away.
Indonesian police said McArthur had been staying at a nearby hotel. They had used his passport to track down and arrest him at Soekarno-Hatta airport as he tried to board a flight to Australia.
“We immediately ask[ed] immigration to stop him and cancel him from leaving the country,” said Bandung’s police chief, Budi Sartono said. “We immediately pick[ed] him up at the airport and [took] him to the Bandung Police Station for interrogation.”
His resident visa had expired and Australian embassy officials accompanied him to the police station, according to local media.
The Indonesian news website Kumparan reported that McArthur had been charged with articles 335 and 315 of the criminal code, which regulate unpleasant acts and insults. He could face a maximum sentence of 14 months in prison if convicted.
In a social media post, McArthur denied any wrongdoing and claimed he was the victim. “Stop crying all your racist tears,” he wrote on Instagram. “I am a Muslim and this is just racist, threatening a bule and laughing being a coward.”
A bule is an Indonesian word used to describe foreigners, specifically people of European descent.
The imam, Basri Anwar, told another Indonesian news site that McArthur had been “disturbed” by the recitation of the Qur’an over a loudspeaker. “When it’s Clean Friday, there’s a recitation of the Qur’an,” he said. “I think he feels disturbed.”
McArthur lists his job as an English teacher and game developer, and his home town as Gosnells in Perth, Western Australia.
A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson said it was standing ready to provide consular assistance to an Australian man detained in Indonesia. “Due to privacy obligations, we are unable to provide further information,” she said.
The arrest comes after a 23-year-old Queensland man, Bodhi Mani Risby-Jones, apologised after he was arrested following a naked drunken rampage through the Indonesian province of Aceh.