Partly Blinded in Acid Attack, Indonesian Anti-Graft Investigator Gets Back to Work

Ahmad Syamsudin
180727_ID_NovelBaswedan_1000.jpg Novel Baswedan, an investigator for the Corruption Eradication Commission (center) delivers a speech upon arrival at the commission's headquarters in Jakarta , Feb. 22, 2018.

An Indonesian anti-corruption investigator who lost an eye in an acid attack while probing one of the country’s largest corruption cases returned to work on Friday, to cheers from officials and co-workers in Jakarta.

Novel Baswedan, a police officer working for Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), was investigating a case that implicated then-House Speaker Setya Novanto, among other officials, when two unidentified men on a motorcycle attacked him with acid in April 2017.

“Those who fight corruption will face hostilities, whether in the form of physical threats or slander,” Baswedan told his supporters and colleagues gathered at the KPK building in the Indonesian capital.

“I have no desire for vengeance,” Baswedan said, as tears rolled down his cheeks. “This is not just from my lips, but also from my heart. But I will not stop calling for this case to be resolved.”

Baswedan said he had no regrets and had forgiven his attackers. But the case must be resolved, he said, as he urged President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to set up an independent team to investigate the attack that left him partially blind.

Police released sketches of two suspects, but no arrests have been made.

Baswedan was the lead investigator in the embezzlement scandal that saw more than $170 million (2.3 trillion rupiah) disappear from a national project to issue new biometric identity cards.

The scandal led to the political downfall of Setya, who lost the House speakership before he was sentenced in April to 15 years in prison for his role in taking kickbacks during the development of the e-ID cards program.

Setya has twice been forced to resign as speaker over corruption-related allegations.

He stepped down in December 2015 after the leader of mining company Freeport McMoran in Indonesia told a parliamentary ethics panel that he had secretly recorded a meeting, where Setya asked for a 20-percent stake in the company. Setya denied the allegation and the attorney general later dropped an investigation.

He was reappointed as speaker in 2016 but resigned after the charges in the e-ID case were filed against him.

Baswedan accused the police of dragging their feet in the investigation. He has previously said that a powerful figure in law enforcement, whom he did not name, was behind the acid attack.

“I appeal to Mr. President, why the president and not the police? Because the police had no willingness to solve this case all along,” he told reporters.

Baswedan’s co-workers and supporters cheered as they displayed placards and posters demanding that his attackers be brought to justice.

Jakarta police spokesman Argo Yuwono said the investigation was continuing.

“No member of the public has come forward with information about the attackers. Does anyone know? We are still looking for the perpetrators. We’re still working hard,” he said.

Baswedan underwent a series of eye surgeries in Singapore before returning to a hero’s welcome in February. He returned to Singapore for further treatment.

Baswedan said his vision was improving faster than he had expected.

“I thought I wouldn’t be able to see again,” he said. “As you can see, I can see, I will use my vision to do good.”


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