Indonesian military chief: Soldiers named as suspects after 6 died in cages

Dandy Koswaraputra
Indonesian military chief: Soldiers named as suspects after 6 died in cages Rescuers found people locked in a cage in the residence of Terbit Rencana Perangin-angin, then the chief of Langkat regency, in North Sumatra, Indonesia, Jan. 24, 2022.
Photo courtesy of Migrant Care

Ten soldiers were named as suspects in the alleged torture deaths of at least six people who had been kept in two cage-like rooms in the house of a regency chief in North Sumatra province, Indonesia’s military chief said Monday.

The iron-barred rooms were discovered after the January arrest of the head of Langkat regency, Terbit Rencana Perangin-angin, who said that his residence housed drug addicts who were undergoing rehabilitation.

“Previously, there were nine suspects from the TNI [the Indonesian military], but now there are 10,” armed forces chief Gen. Andika Perkasa told reporters, without elaborating on allegations against them.

Andika urged witnesses and victims to report any intimidation aimed at obstructing the investigation.

“If the intimidation comes from the TNI, we will definitely take action,” he said.

In March, the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) said its investigation found that at least six people had died while living in the cages. It said the victims were subjected to intense torture, including being burned with a hot iron and being thrown into deep water.

Police said 656 people had occupied the two cages since 2010. The case came to light when investigators with the Corruption Eradication Agency searched Terbit Rencana’s house in January and found 27 people inside the cells.

Terbit Rencana has been arrested on suspicion that he received bribes in connection with infrastructure projects in Langkat.

Local media reported that some of those kept in the cages had worked in palm oil plantations belonging to Terbit Rencana. Labor activist Anis Hidayah alleged they were forced to work at least 10 hours a day, likely without pay.

In March, Terbit Rencana’s lawyer, Mangapul Silalahi, told local media that violence in the cages pitted new occupants against old ones without the knowledge of his client or his family.

Military response

Komnas HAM member Mohammad Choirul Anam said the military took action following his institution’s findings.

“We found that TNI personnel were involved in the case and Komnas HAM directly communicated with both the commander and the military police command,” Anam told BenarNews. “This is not only important for the victims but also important for the TNI to prove its commitment to upholding the law and human rights.”

He called on the TNI to be transparent in handling the case against the soldiers.



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