Former Indonesian police inspector-general loses appeal against death sentence in murder case

Arie Firdaus
Former Indonesian police inspector-general loses appeal against death sentence in murder case Indonesian police Insp.-Gen. Ferdy Sambo (center, in red vest), accused of murdering bodyguard Nofriansyah Yosua Hutabarat, is escorted to his trial at the South Jakarta Court in Jakarta, Oct. 17, 2022.
Adek Berry/AFP

Updated at 8:57 p.m. ET on 2023-04-12

An Indonesian appeals court on Wednesday upheld the death sentence of a former police inspector-general who was convicted for ordering a low-ranking policeman killed over the suspicion that he had sexually assaulted his wife.

The Jakarta High Court rejected the appeal filed by Ferdy Sambo, who headed the national police’s internal affairs division when the murder took place at his official residence in July 2022. In February, a trial court found Sambo guilty of premeditated murder and obstruction of justice, and condemned him to death row.

“The High Court’s decision is essentially to uphold the verdict of the South Jakarta District Court,” said Singgih Budi Prakoso, head of the five-judge panel that heard the appeal.

Sambo and his wife, Putri Candrawathi, along with three other accomplices, were all convicted of charges in a conspiracy to murder Nofriansyah Yosua Hutabarat, a 27-year-old brigadier, at Sambo’s official residence.

Putri, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for her role in the killing, also had her appeal rejected by the Jakarta High Court on Wednesday. Both of the high-profile convicts and their lawyers were not in the courtrooms on Wednesday when the different panels ruled on their appeals. 

In addition, one of the three other convicted accomplices, Ricky Rizal, lost their appeal before the court on Wednesday. The court the same day was also hearing the appeal of the other accomplice, Kuat Ma’ruf. On Wednesday, the judges rejected his appeal as well when they returned to the courtroom after breaking their daily Ramadan fast. The last accomplice has not appealed his conviction and is serving time in prison.  

Sambo, Putri and Rizal can still file a further appeal to the Supreme Court or seek clemency from the president.

The police initially claimed that Yosua was killed in a shootout with another policeman, but the victim’s family demanded a second autopsy, which revealed multiple gunshot wounds.

Amid a public outcry, national Police Chief Listyo Sigit Prabowo set up a special team to investigate the case. The team exhumed Yosua’s body and worked with an independent forensics team to conduct the second autopsy.

Prosecutors said the motive for the murder was Sambo’s belief of his wife’s allegation that Yosua had sexually assaulted her, a charge that was not proven in court.

The case has drawn national attention and raised questions about excesses and corruption in the police force. The killing also drew attention to Sambo’s apparently disproportionate wealth and lavish lifestyle.

Putri Candrawathi, the wife of former head of the internal affairs for Indonesia’s national police Ferdy Sambo, attends her trial at the South Jakarta court in Jakarta on February 13, 2023. [Aditya Aji/AFP]

Sambo’s lawyer had argued that the death penalty violated human rights and the verdict was harsher than the prosecution’s demand for life imprisonment.

But the judges at the Jakarta High Court said that capital punishment was still needed as a deterrent and a “shock therapy” for law enforcement in Indonesia.

Another policeman, Rizal, and the family’s driver, Kuat, received sentences of 13 to 15 years for their roles in the crime.

Another officer, Richard Eliezer, who cooperated with the investigation and testified against Sambo, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for firing his gun at Yosua on Sambo’s orders.

Sambo is the first police general to be sentenced to death for murder in Indonesia’s history.  In Indonesia, the death penalty is usually carried out by a firing squad.

The couple’s trials were televised nationwide and transfixed Indonesians for months.

The case came about amid instances of alleged police misconduct that have eroded public trust in the institution, and it prompted calls for reform and better governance in the force.

Another police general, Teddy Minahasa, is on trial for allegedly trafficking 5 kg (11 lbs.) of crystal methamphetamine investigators had seized from suspected drug dealers last year as evidence.

He could face the death penalty, if convicted of the charges.

This report has been updated to add information about the outcome of the appeal by Kuat Ma’ruf.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.