Former Inspector General Ferdy Sambo of Indonesia’s National Police, was sentenced to death for the murder of his own aide, Brigadier Yosua Nopryansyah Hutabarat. (Photo: Indonesia Police)

Feb 15 2023

A court in Indonesia handed down the death penalty to retired police inspector-general Ferdy Sambo, a Christian, for the murder of his aid and a junior officer, on Feb. 13.

During the televised verdict, judge Wahyu Iman Santoso of the South Jakarta District Court said that Sambo had been proven “convincingly guilty of committing the crime of participating in premeditated murder and the destruction of the electronic system.”

Sambo, a Protestant Christian and former chief of Internal affairs at the National Police, was charged with ordering the killing of his aide, Nofriansyah Yosua Hutabarat.

The murder happened in Sambo’s official residence on July 8, 2022, while Sambo was still in service.

His wife, Putri Candrawathi, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for her role in planning the murder, local media reports said.

The panel of judges said Candrawathi had also twisted facts and spoken dishonestly throughout the hearings, complicating the court proceedings, according to the reports.

They said she did nothing to prevent her husband from murdering Hutabarat despite plenty of opportunities to do so.

In several hearings, Candrawathi claimed that she had been raped by Hutabarat but failed to offer evidence, according to the court. She also claimed Hutabarat had threatened to kill her loved ones if she told anyone about the rape. 

Sambo was named the prime suspect and mastermind in August, after investigators arrested another officer, Richard Eliezer, 24, accused of shooting and killing Hutabarat.

Hutabarat was shot after he sexually harassed Sambo’s wife, some reports claimed.

The verdict against Eliezer, also a Protestant Christian, is scheduled to be delivered on Feb 15.

The murder made national headlines and controversy hovered over initial probes by police.

In the beginning, local media reported the incident as a “fight between officers.”  Police initially said Hutabarat died in a shootout after he was caught harassing Sambo’s wife, and he pulled the trigger first when confronted.

The victim’s family rejected the report as fabricated, inconsistent, and an attempt to vilify him to cover up the crime. The family also demanded a re-autopsy of his body.

Following a public backlash, President Joko Widodo ordered police to form a special investigative team to thoroughly probe the case.

After the second probe, the police initiated disciplinary action against 32 officers accused of mishandling the case. Some 10 top police officers were removed or suspended from their posts on allegations of derailing the investigation, such as removing CCTV footage of the crime scene.

The case took a new twist when major suspect Eliezer offered to become a justice collaborator and changed all previous statements.

Christians and rights groups welcomed the verdict but questioned whether a death sentence was necessary as prosecutors demanded lifetime imprisonment.

Usman Hamid, executive director of Amnesty International in Indonesia said the verdict seems an attempt to end impunity against crimes committed by police.

“Of course, the panel of judges made the decision in accordance with the existing positive law which imposes the death penalty as the maximum sentence. Legally, it is not wrong,” he said.

“I respect the ruling. Still, the panel of judges should not have sentenced Sambo to death as he has the right to life,” he said.

Hamid suggested that the state should focus on the improvement of accountability in law enforcement at the National Police as “the current internal mechanism focuses only on the disciplinary and administrative punishment which never brings justice to the public.”

He said police should strengthen the monitoring system by recruiting police officers with high moral integrity.

Amnesty data showed serious crimes like extrajudicial killings by police officers have met impunity. Out of the total of 30 cases of extrajudicial killings in 2022 police were involved in 27 cases, Amnesty said. Only four cases were moved to the court.

Jesuit Father Franz Magnis-Suseno, an expert witness during a trial in December last year, said the death sentence will never serve as a deterrent.

“I feel that a maximum sentence is fair enough. But it does not mean that it has to be the death sentence,” he told UCA News.

“It is not about who Sambo was, but we should realize that we must avoid the death sentence.” 

He also asserted that the death sentence must be abolished.

Reverend Gomar Gultom, chairman of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia, echoed shared similar sentiments and called the verdict “the state’s act of vengeance.”

“It seems to me that the state got frustrated by its failure in creating a dignified society,” he said in a statement.

After the verdict, the victim’s lawyer Kamaruddin Simanjuntak told reporters it was a victory of the poor against the powerful.

“The Indonesian people, particularly those who are poor, must be given equal access to justice. So the verdict is a turning point for them,” he said. – UCA News