JAKARTA: The murder trial of one of Indonesia’s most senior police officers started today, in what is seen as a test of the accountability of the force after it was accused of initially trying to cover up the crime.
Ferdy Sambo, a two-star general and head of internal affairs for Indonesia’s national police, was named as a suspect after his bodyguard was found dead at Sambo’s home in July.
He stands accused of ordering a subordinate to shoot brigadier Nofriansyah Yosua Hutabarat, or brigadier J, then shooting the wounded victim again himself to finish him off.
“Defendant Ferdy Sambo approached the victim Nofriansyah Yosua Hutabarat, who was lying face down and still moving in pain near the stairs next to the bathroom,” prosecutor Sugeng Hariadi read from an indictment letter in South Jakarta District Court today.
“Then, to make sure that he was really dead, defendant Ferdy Sambo, who was already wearing black gloves, grabbed a firearm and shot once into the left side of the back of Nopriansyah Yosua Hutabarat’s head,” he added.
Police were initially accused of covering up the murder before Sambo’s August arrest and September discharge from the force.
Intense public scrutiny is now focusing on the outcome of a trial that experts say is one of the biggest scandals to ever hit the police.
“This is a test not only for the police but also for the attorney general office and the court. It’s a test for our criminal justice system,” Ardi Manto Adiputra, deputy director of rights group Imparsial, told AFP.
Accountability in spotlight
The issue of police accountability has taken on fresh urgency in Indonesia after officers’ response to a pitch invasion at a football game earlier this month was blamed for triggering a stampede that left 132 people dead.
The incident sparked an outpouring of public anger, with the government announcing an investigation and authorities later charging at least six people – three of them police officers – for their roles in the disaster.
When brigadier J was found dead at Sambo’s home on July 8, police initially said another member of the security detail had killed him after catching him sexually assaulting Sambo’s wife.
But on Aug 9, Sambo was arrested on suspicion of premeditated murder, with his wife arrested on the same charge two weeks later.
They could face the death penalty if found guilty.
That followed weeks of speculation about what had taken place inside the top officer’s home, where brigadier J had been shot multiple times and whose body showed signs of torture.
Sambo claimed to have been taking a Covid-19 test at the time of the murder.
Police did not reveal the killing for three days and said CCTV footage was not available because it was not functioning when brigadier J died.
“There were some irregularities in the case at the beginning, for almost two weeks the narration of the story was only based on the manipulation perpetrated by Sambo. Over time, the police’s alibis and explanation no longer made sense,” Adiputra said.
Indonesian president Joko Widodo called for a full and transparent investigation into the case.
Sambo, along with six other officers, has also been charged with obstruction of justice.
The trial is expected to last for weeks.