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Indonesia: Rights Groups Question Trial in Acid-Attack Case

Ronna Nirmala
Jakarta
2020-06-22
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Anti-graft senior investigator Novel Baswedan, who lost his eye in a 2017 acid attack, gestures while talking at the Corruption Eradication Commission headquarters in Jakarta, Indonesia, Dec. 6, 2019.
Anti-graft senior investigator Novel Baswedan, who lost his eye in a 2017 acid attack, gestures while talking at the Corruption Eradication Commission headquarters in Jakarta, Indonesia, Dec. 6, 2019.
Reuters

Human rights groups on Monday called for an independent probe and denounced as a farce the trial of two low-ranking Indonesian policemen charged in an acid attack that left a senior corruption investigator nearly blind three years ago.

Novel Baswedan, who works for Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), was investigating cases that implicated senior officials and police officers when two unidentified men on a motorcycle attacked him in April 2017. Baswedan has questioned whether the pair were responsible for the attack, in which he lost his left eye after the assailants threw acid in his face.

“The court is running some kind of a farce and formality to create the impression that justice is being served,” Arif Maulana, director of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), told BenarNews on Monday. “The trial was designed to fail from the start.”

The criticism by the legal aid group is the latest since prosecutors announced their sentencing recommendation for the defendants, active police officers Rahmat Kadir Mahulette and Ronny Bugis, if they are convicted. Earlier this month, the prosecution sought a one-year sentence for the two, arguing that even though the attack was premeditated, the defendants did not intend to throw the acid on Baswedan’s face.

YLBHI and others have questioned the prosecutor’s argument that the defendants did not intend to throw acid on Baswedan’s face, but on his body. The indictment had said the motive for the attack was personal and not related to Baswedan’s work as a corruption investigator.

Also on Monday, Amnesty International (AI) Indonesia posted a video on YouTube showing a witness who was not called to testify expressing doubts that the defendants were the real attackers, saying they did not fit the description of the suspects.

“Actually I had hoped that I would be called to testify so that I could see whether the people  I saw on the day of the attack are the same as the two defendants,” said the man whose face was blurred during his interview.

AI Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid called for a new independent investigation into the attack that should include the key witness.

“The trial should be cancelled and there should be a new investigation that is more effective, open and impartial,” Usman told BenarNews.

Baswedan: Just release the defendants

In an interview with local media Tribune News published Friday, Baswedan said the trial, which began in March, was full of oddities. The suspects were arrested in December 2019, about 2½ years after the attack and following a major investigation.

“Even though there were many irregularities from the beginning, I was still surprised when the prosecutors sought only a one-year sentence for the two defendants,” Baswedan said.

“I’m not sure either of the two people was the culprit. When I asked witnesses who saw the attackers, they said they were not them. Just release them rather than making things up,” he said in a tweet posted to his Twitter account.

Last year, police formed a joint fact-finding team with the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), consisting of 65 members including 53 police.

The team found that the attack occurred when Baswedan was investigating six high profile corruption cases, including a mega-graft case surrounding an electronic ID card project. He was the lead investigator in the embezzlement scandal that saw more than 2.3 trillion rupiah (U.S. $163 million) disappear from a national project to issue new biometric identity cards.

The scandal led to the political downfall of then-parliament Speaker Setya Novanto, who lost the position prior to being sentenced to 15 years for his role in taking kickbacks.

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