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Indonesian police reject claims of political cover-up after suspect in 2016 murder case arrested

South China Morning Post - May 28, 2024

Indonesian police have rejected accusations of a political cover-up over the murder of a couple following the arrest of the suspected mastermind who was on the run for eight years.

The August 2016 deaths of Vina Dewi Arsita and her boyfriend Eky sparked renewed intrigue after Vina: Sebelum 7 Hari (Vina: Before 7 Days), a film based on the incident, was released on May 8.

Two weeks after the horror film hit the screens, police took Pegi Setiawan into custody in West Java's Bandung and insisted he was the last fugitive linked to the case initially classified as a traffic accident.

Further investigations revealed teenagers Vina and Eky were murdered by a gang of 11 members who also raped her before dumping the bodies on a road in the West Java town of Cirebon.

Eight men were convicted of attempted murder, with seven serving life sentences.

Pegi denied wrongdoing, saying he was "sacrificed" to protect the image of several government officials whose relatives were involved in the case. "I am not the murder mastermind. I am willing to die [to prove that I am innocent]," he said.

Commissioner Surawan brushed aside those allegations. "There are no children of government officials on the police wanted list as rumoured. PS is the only fugitive [in the case]," he said, referring to Pegi.

Marliyana, Vina's elder sister, said she and her lawyer would raise the issue of the omission of the two remaining suspects from the charge sheet.

"The family learned at that time there were three suspects still at large, but now police say there was only one fugitive who has been arrested," she said.

Surawan blamed social media users for fuelling speculation about the remaining suspects.

"We had only one fugitive, who has now been arrested. We strictly follow the facts based on our investigation, not public assumptions circulating on social media or other platforms."

Pegi was charged under multiple sections of the criminal code that carry life imprisonment or the death penalty, The Jakarta Post reported.

Pegi's mother, who met him at the West Java police headquarters, said her son was being framed in the case.

"If you are innocent, you don't need to worry. Let them beat you and force you to confess. Your words must remain the same, even if you are forced or have to die," The Jakarta Globe quoted Kartini as saying.

Saka Tatal, one of the convicts, who was released in 2020, recently claimed he admitted to the crime under duress.

The National Human Rights Commission last week asked the West Java police to investigate allegations of custodial torture and revive efforts to locate the two missing suspects.

Vina and Eky's case is not the first true-crime saga to make its way to the silver screen.

Last year, Netflix released Ice Cold: Murder, Coffee and Jessica Wongso, a documentary chronicling the 2016 trial of Jessica Wongso who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for killing her friend Wayan Mirna Salihin after poisoning her coffee with cyanide at a Jakarta cafe.

Wongso's lawyer told local media a fresh legal challenge would be mounted to quash her conviction after Indonesia's Supreme Court rejected a judicial review in 2018 and upheld the punishment.

Source: https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/article/3264436/indonesian-police-reject-claims-political-cover-after-suspect-2016-murder-case-arreste