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The general, his wife and their dead bodyguard: A suspicious shooting grips a nation

Brisbane Times - July 26, 2022

Chris Barrett and Karuni Rompies, Singapore/Jakarta – It's a police drama with more twists and turns than a Hollywood spy thriller and a cast of characters to fit the bill.

With allegations of an affair, missing CCTV footage and claims of a cover-up, Indonesia has been transfixed for the past two weeks by the shooting death of a junior policeman at the home of his boss – one of the highest ranking officers in the country – and the mysterious circumstances of it.

Now, as the policeman's body is to be exhumed for a second autopsy and with several senior officers suspended, public trust in one of the south-east Asian nation's most important institutions is on the line and even President Joko Widodo has weighed in.

The controversy revolves around the death of 27-year-old Brigadier Nopryansyah Yosua Hutabarat at the Jakarta home of Inspector General Ferdy Sambo, the Indonesian National Police's head of internal affairs.

According to the police version of events, Hutabarat, a bodyguard and driver for Sambo died after a shootout with another lower-ranking member of the protection team on July 8. Police said the firefight broke out after Hutabarat sexually harassed Sambo's wife.

Sambo, 49, was not at home at the time and instead was at a clinic undergoing a PCR test, police said. Earlier, Hutabarat had driven him and Sambo's wife, Putri Candrawathi, from the city of Magelang, a seven-hour journey halfway across Java, back to the capital.

However, as news outlets in Indonesia have reported that Hutabara was suspected of having an affair with Sambo's wife, lawyers for his family have contested the official version of events. They claim he was killed in a "premeditated murder" after being tortured.

Kamaruddin Simanjuntak, one of the lawyers for the family, told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age that Hutabarat's relatives discovered multiple bruises and other wounds on his body after it was escorted from Jakarta to Jambi, a city in Sumatra where they live.

The family defied a police directive not to open the casket so they could embalm the body and after unbuttoning Hutabarat's clothes took photographs and video footage of his injuries.

"Based on the evidence such as pictures and testimony of witnesses, there were incisions under the eye, an incision from a sharp object in the nose, an incision on the lips, a scar on the neck, a burn mark on the right arm from a cigar and finger bones crushed," Simanjuntak said.

"The nail of a finger was removed by a clamp, his leg was stabbed with something sharp and there was an incision behind his ear."

The family's legal team have also questioned the police account that Hutabarat, a trained sniper, fired off seven shots during the gunfight and missed every time while the other bodyguard unloaded five rounds, hitting him four times and leaving seven bullet holes.

They said on Monday that Hutabarat had received death threats as recently as a day before he was killed and that contacts and messages from his mobile phones had been deleted.

Additionally, there are queries on why the other bodyguard was using a Glock 17 pistol – an unusual weapon for someone of his lowly rank of second private – and why the incident was only made public three days after it occurred.

Initially, authorities said CCTV cameras at the house were out of order, but they have since revealed they were examining uncovered footage from "around the crime scene, around the road near the crime scene".

The furious scrutiny of the case has prompted the national police to intervene, its chief, General Listyo Sigit Prabowo, has taken over the investigation and Sambo has requested his wife be safeguarded by the country's witness and victim protection programs.

As news has emerged that Hutabarat's body would be exhumed and a second autopsy conducted, his family has reportedly taken turns watching over his grave "in order [for] no unwanted things to happen," according to his father.

That examination will be carried out by several forensic doctors from the armed forces as well as from public and private hospitals, Simaanjuntak said.

Bambang Rukminto, a researcher on police affairs at the Institute for Security and Strategic Studies in Jakarta, believes it is an "ordinary crime case" but that the handling of it by police has been unprofessional and risked damaging the integrity of the force.

Widodo, known as Jokowi, is eager for that to be avoided. "I have asked for a thorough investigation," the Indonesian leader said.

"Open it as it is. No cover-up. Transparent. That's it. This is important so that the people don't have doubts over the incident that occurred. This is what has to be maintained. Public trust in the police must be maintained."

Source: https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/world/asia/the-general-his-wife-and-their-dead-bodyguard-a-suspicious-shooting-grips-a-nation-20220725-p5b4gj.htm