Jakarta – Police in Indonesia have charged three recruiting agency bosses over the torture death of an Indonesian crew member found in a freezer aboard a Chinese fishing vessel, an official said Tuesday.
It comes a week after a Chinese supervisor on the Lu Huang Yuan Yu 118 was charged with killing 20-year-old Hasan Apriadi and assaulting other Indonesian crew working on the ship.
The recruiters ran two agencies that hired Apriadi and at least nine others to work on the Chinese boat, police said.
"The three suspects have been detained and charged under human trafficking laws," said national police spokesman Awi Setiyono, adding that a search was under way for two other senior company officials still at large.
The trio also face charges that they knowingly put the crew members at risk, police said.
Anti-trafficking experts say the fishing industry is riddled with forced labor and exploited workers can face non-payment, overwork, violence and death.
Southeast Asia is a major source of such labor and unscrupulous recruiters target the poor and uneducated with promises of good wages at sea.
Earlier this month police said they intercepted two Argentina-bound Chinese boats in the Malacca Strait, which separates Indonesia and Malaysia, after receiving information that a crew member had died aboard one of the vessels.
They later found Apriadi's frozen body aboard the Lu Huang Yuan Yu 118.
After interrogating dozens of crew members from China, Indonesia and the Philippines, police charged Chinese national Song Chuanyun with the killing.
Citing witness statements, authorities said Song had forced the victim to work despite being ill. He later allegedly tortured the Indonesian and denied him food or water for several days before he died in late June.
Song will be tried in Indonesia, while the other crew members have since been released into the custody of their respective embassies, said Riau province police spokesman Harry Golden Hart.
In June, two Indonesian crew members jumped off a different Chinese boat to escape what they described as abuse and horrific conditions.
A month earlier, three dead Indonesian crew members were thrown off a Chinese-flagged vessel into the sea.
Jakarta later said it was told that the men had died of illness, while Beijing described the sea burials as being in line with international law.