Apriadi Gunawan, Medan – The trial of eight defendants accused of being involved in the fatal caging of people in the house of graft suspect and inactive Langkat regent Terbit Rencana Perangin-Angin has begun at the Stabat district court in Langkat, North Sumatra.
The defendants, who include Terbit's son Dewa, are suspected of having acted as caretakers of the iron-barred cells and were allegedly involved in caging that led to the death of four victims.
Dewa and three other defendants have been charged with group violence resulting in death, which carries a maximum penalty of 12 years in prison, and premeditated murder, with a maximum penalty of 15 years' imprisonment under the Criminal Code.
Four other defendants face charges of illegal incarceration leading to death, which carries a maximum penalty of 5 years in jail under the Human Trafficking Law.
The defendants attended a Wednesday court hearing online from Tanjung Gusta Penitentiary in Medan, while their legal counsels attended in person.
The North Sumatra Police have also named Terbit a suspect in the caging.
The cages were discovered not long after the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) arrested then-regent Terbit in January for allegedly demanding kickbacks from private contractors in exchange for infrastructure projects.
The KPK and the North Sumatra Police found two cages in Terbit's house holding dozens of people who are thought to have been forced to work on his oil palm plantation, and they began a separate investigation into the matter.
Terbit's son was accused of being involved in torture that led to the death of Sarianto Ginting, one of the imprisoned victims.
Police have said it is likely that more suspects would be named. Terbit's younger brother Sribana Perangin-Angin, who is the speaker of the Langkat Legislative Council, is among those who have been questioned.
The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) has accused Terbit of keeping people in cages since 2010. Terbit claims he was running a rehabilitation center for narcotics users.
The commission found slavery-like practices and noted that some 57 people were being held in the two cells at the time of their discovery. Most were drug users, male and poor.
According to the Witness and Victim Protection Agency (LPSK), at least 19 suspects have been named in relation to six alleged crimes in the case.
The two state institutions have also recommended that the Attorney General's Office (AGO), the National Police and the Indonesian Military (TNI) further investigate the alleged roles of certain members of the police and military in what they say were systematic, years-long human rights violations.