Nur Janti, Jakarta – A local district court in West Java stunned activists this week after sending four convicted robbers to prison despite mounting proof of wrongful arrest and police intimidation.
On Monday, the Cikarang District Court in Bekasi regency found the four suspects – Muhammad Fikry, Muhammad Rizky, Randi Apriyanto and Abdul Rohman – guilty of armed robbery, sentencing the latter to 10 months' imprisonment and nine months for the other three.
They have been standing trial for nearly a year after the police brought them into custody in July for allegedly committing begal (a red light robbery).
However, rights activists noted irregularities in their arrest and alleged that officers coerced them into providing false testimony, which led the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) to open an investigation.
The Jakarta Police and the National Police Commission (Kompolnas) had both ruled out foul play.
Komnas HAM released their findings last week ahead of the court verdict, pointing to indications of rights violations by investigators at Tambelang Police, who had allegedly tortured the men by using verbal and physical beatings, blindfolding and even firing warning shots into the air.
"There are violations of human rights, especially the right to be free from torture, the right to security, the right to obtain justice and the right to health," said Endang Sri Meliani of Komnas HAM at a briefing last week, as reported by state media Antara.
But the investigation did not stop the court's panel of judges from handing out a guilty verdict to all four men.
The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), which advocates for civilians wronged by institutions of power, condemned the court ruling despite the mounting evidence of police torture.
Andi Muhammad Rezaldy of Kontras, who represented the defendants as their lawyer alongside the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta), said that the judges had ignored evidence proving that they were not at the scene of the crime when it occurred in the early hours of July 24, 2021.
Andi said he believed the police had made a wrongful arrest and rough-housed the men into confessing.
According to a defense note offered up to trial, Fikry was sleeping in a mushola (prayer room) far from the location of the incident. His alibi was supported by CCTV footage found near the prayer room.
Meanwhile, Abdul and Rizky insist they were out delivering chicken to markets in Bekasi, while Randi was reportedly sleeping over at a friend's house at the time of the robbery.
"They were victims of wrongful arrest and torture. Each of their alibis was confirmed by witnesses," Andi told The Jakarta Post on Thursday, stressing that the case could set a bad precedent for the handling of criminal cases.
The defendants plan to file an appeal against the verdict.