Military court hands life sentence to colonel for 2 teens’ murder

Arie Firdaus
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Military court hands life sentence to colonel for 2 teens’ murder Col. Priyanto (center) walks into a courtroom before his trial at the local military court in Jakarta, June 7, 2022.

An Indonesian military tribunal convicted and sentenced an army colonel to life in prison Tuesday for the murder of two teenagers who he decided to throw into a river after his car accidentally hit them last year.

An autopsy found that one of the victims was alive when the two were dumped into the Serayu River in Central Java, in a case that grabbed national headlines.

A panel of three judges at the Jakarta Military Court ruled that Priyanto’s action had tarnished the military’s image in the public’s eyes, and ordered that he be dismissed from the service.

“The defendant was proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of premeditated murder by eliminating their bodies to hide their deaths,” said Brig. Gen. Faridah Faisal, the judge heading the panel.

“As a trained soldier, the defendant used [his skills] to kill people in a cruel way and in violation of human rights.”

Two of Priyanto’s subordinates, who were in the car with him, had suggested the victims be taken to a hospital, but he scolded them, saying, “We’re soldiers. Don’t be a cry-baby!” the court heard.

Verdicts for the two subordinates – Second Corporal Andreas Dwi Armoko and First Corporal Ahmad Soleh – were still pending.

Priyanto decided to throw the victims – Handi Saputra, 17, and his girlfriend, 14-year-old Salsabila – into the Serayu River in Central Java after the car driven by Corp. Andreas smashed into the teenagers while travelling in West Java on Dec. 8, the court heard.

After hauling the victims into the back of his car, Priyanto took the wheel and said: “I once bombed a house and didn’t get caught.”

“The defendant was intent on taking the victims’ lives and this qualifies as premeditated murder,” judge Faridah said.

At one point after the incident Priyanto asked his subordinates: “Is it on social media yet?” the tribunal heard.

Indonesian Armed Forces chief Gen. Andika Perkasa had called for a life sentence for Priyanto, even though the crime of premeditated murder is punishable by death according to military and civil law.

Human rights groups have called on military members to be tried in civilian courts for civil crimes.

In his defense plea, Priyanto’s attorney said he should be acquitted because he had served in the military for 28 years and been awarded for “putting his life on the line” in an anti-insurgency operation in East Timor when it was occupied by Indonesia’s military.

During the trial, Priyanto said he was remorseful, local media reported.

“I truly regret what I did,” he was quoted as saying. “What I did was extremely stupid and evil.”

Priyanto, who stood passively during the verdict hearing, said he was considering an appeal.

“I’m thinking about it,” said Priyanto, when asked by the judge whether he was appealing.

After the sentencing, a spokesman for the Jakarta military tribunal, Col. Hanifan Hidayatullah, said Priyanto would serve his sentence in civilian prison.


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