Thirty-five suspects appeared in an East Java court Thursday to face charges related to the killing of a farmer and an attack on another farmer, both of whom were anti-sand mining activists.
Two of the suspects are local officials who allegedly masterminded the separate attacks. The pair could face the death penalty, if convicted.
The hearing into the murder of Salim Kancil, 52, and Tosan, 51, who survived a separate attack on the same day last September, took place at Surabaya District Court.
The farmers were activists who led protests against an illegal sand-mining operation in Lumajang, a regency about 150 kilometers (93 miles) southeast of Surabaya. Both were from the village of Selok Awar-Awar in Pasirian, a sub-district of Lumanjang.
The alleged masterminds of the attacks, Hariyono and Madasir (alias Abdul Holek), face multiple counts. Hariyono was village leader of Selok Awar-Awar and Madasir was chairman of the Community Institution of the Village Forest.
Prosecutor M. Naimullah charged both men with formulating a murder plan, causing violence resulting in death, aggravated assault, and taking someone’s life. Hariyono also faces charges related to illegal mining and money laundering, which carry a penalty of 20 years in prison.
Another 33 defendants appeared in two different courtrooms. Charges against them vary, depending on their alleged roles, but carry maximum penalties of five to seven years.
Electrocuted, beaten, stabbed
During the indictment Naimullah alleged that the defendants committed torture and premeditated murder, and these acts were carefully planned by Hariyono and Madasir because Salim wanted to protest sand mining by Hariyono.
Madasir threatened to kill Salim and Tosan if the sand mining operation were shut down, the prosecutor alleged.
Salim and Tosan reported the threats to the Lumajang and Pasirian police.
Not long afterward, at least a dozen men attacked Tosan at his home on Sept. 26, running him over with a motorcycle. Thinking he was dead, the attackers left him in the middle of the road.
They then went to Salim’s house, where he was beaten. Then they took him to the village hall, where he was allegedly electrocuted, beaten again and stabbed to death.
Salim’s body was left on the street, face down with his hands tied behind his back, according to the indictment.
“They (the defendants) have undergone detention since three months ago. It is still an indictment,” said Ade Erwiyanto, Haryono’s defense attorney, adding, “There will be direct evidence by calling witnesses.”
Another prosecutor, Dodi Emil Gazali told the court that Hariyono began mining the sand in Watu Pecak, an area on the coast, without a permit on the pretext of developing coastal tourism.
Haryono sold the sand for Rp 270,000 (U.S. $200) per truck, and sold an average of 150 truckloads per day, which equaled more than Rp 40 million (U.S. $30,000), Dodi said.
Chief Judge Jihad Alkharuddin adjourned the trial till next Thursday, when witness testimony is set to begin.
Some of the witnesses, who fear for their lives, have been placed into an Indonesian witness and victim protection program.
As the hearing took place, outside the courthouse dozens of activists from a conservation group staged a demonstration highlighting the detrimental effects of illegal sand mining in Lumajang (pictured below).
Salim had voiced concerns about the process to local authorities and lawmakers but to no avail, said Ony Mahardika, director of the East Java Forum for the Environment (WALHI) group.
An investigation by WALHI determined that hundreds of people were involved in the illegal mining, he said.
“Salim also sent a letter to the parliament leaders and to the district head of Lumajang to oppose the mining. But there was no response. He was instead intimidated and threatened with violence,” Ony said.