Indonesian investigators file murder charges against ex-police inspector general, others

Arie Firdaus
Indonesian investigators file murder charges against ex-police inspector general, others Ferdy Sambo (center, wearing white shirt and red vest) arrives at the Indonesian Attorney General’s Office in Jakarta, Oct. 5, 2022.
Courtesy Attorney General’s Office

Investigators in Indonesia formally charged a former police inspector general and his wife Wednesday with the murder of a subordinate at his home, in a scandal that has shone a spotlight on excesses by members of the national force.

The case against Ferdy Sambo, who was sacked as chief of the national police’s internal affairs division over the scandal, has transfixed Indonesians. It has prompted public calls for an overhaul of the force, considered one of the most corrupt institutions in the Southeast Asian nation.

On Wednesday, the investigators presented case files for Sambo and four alleged accomplices – his wife Putri Candrawathi, two police officers and his family’s driver – to the prosecutor’s office. This paves the way for trials on charges of premeditated murder in the killing of Brigadier Yosua Hutabarat.

If convicted, the suspects could face the death penalty, according to Fadil Zumhana, deputy attorney general for general crimes.

“No later than Monday I will hand over [the cases] to the court,” Fadil said, adding the court would then decide on a timeline for trials.

Sambo and his wife appeared at the Attorney General’s Office on Wednesday.

“I am ready for the legal process, but my wife is innocent. She did nothing and is a victim,” Sambo told reporters.

Investigators did not immediately make clear why Sambo’s wife was charged with murder as well.

On July 8, Yosua was killed at Sambo’s official residence. Police have said that Second Patrolman Richard Eliezer shot Yosua, who was assigned as chauffeur for Putri, after he caught Yosua allegedly sexually assaulting her.

Eliezer admitted to investigators that he killed Yosua on Sambo’s order and agreed to cooperate with investigators in return for possible leniency, according to lawyer Muhammad Burhanuddin, who has since been replaced. Eliezer also said Sambo had fired Yosua’s gun at the wall to make it appear as if they had a gunfight.

Meanwhile, Yosua’s relatives and advocates for the family challenged the assault allegation by claiming the killing was premeditated.

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 team of forensic doctors in conducting an autopsy.

Sambo was arrested in August and a police ethics tribunal dishonorably dismissed him from the force last month.

He and six other high-ranking police officers – who have all been dismissed – have been charged with obstruction of justice for alleged attempts to destroy evidence, including removing security cameras from Sambo’s house.

Sambo’s trial will test the integrity of judicial and law enforcement institutions in Indonesia, according to Gayus Lumbuun, a former Supreme Court judge.

“This is a test for investigators, prosecutors and judges. There is no good verdict without a good investigation and a good indictment,” Gayus told BenarNews.

‘Greed, arrogance and hedonism’

Last month, Mohammad Mahfud MD, coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, said there needed to be a change of culture within the police and warned the ranks against “greed, arrogance and hedonism.”

Sambo’s perceived wealth has put a spotlight on the luxurious lifestyles of high-ranking cops, with people questioning their sources of income considering senior officers’ relatively modest salaries.

“Cultural reform within the police is a must. There is no point in legal reform without the reform of the culture,” Mahfud MD said.

The police force has become too powerful following its separation from the Indonesian Armed Forces after the fall of autocratic president Suharto in 1998, analysts said.

Some active and retired police generals enjoy senior positions in President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s administration, including Tito Karnavian, a former national police chief and anti-terrorism tsar who serves as home affairs minister.

“The national police has wide-ranging powers including budgeting, planning, operation and supervision. There is hardly any supervision because it has its own internal supervisory body,” said Bambang Rukminto, a security analyst at the Institute for Security and Strategic Studies.


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