Chris Barrett and Karuni Rompies, Singapore/Jakarta – An Indonesian police general who ordered the killing of his bodyguard has been sentenced to death after a panel of judges rejected claims the junior officer had sexually abused his wife.
The gunning down of 27-year-old Brigadier Nopryansyah Yosua Hutabarat has gripped the country of 270 million in the seven months since it took place in initially mysterious circumstances, with President Joko Widodo repeatedly demanding transparency in the case in a bid to retain public trust in the police.
He was killed on July 8 last year at the Jakarta residence of his boss, Inspector General Ferdy Sambo, then the internal affairs chief of Indonesia's National Police.
Sambo had said that Hutabarat died in a firefight with another officer on his staff which, he claimed in his trial, broke out after his personal aide, driver and bodyguard had sexually assaulted his wife.
Amid revelations of torture and allegations of tampered evidence, however, Sambo was later charged with premeditated murder.
Prosecutors asked for a sentence of life in prison but as a panel of judges in South Jakarta District Court found him on Monday to have masterminded the slaying, he was handed the death penalty instead.
In a televised verdict, presiding judge Wahyu Iman Santoso said Sambo had planned out the murder in detail and summoned other subordinates to his residence to carry it out, concluding there was nothing to mitigate the sentence.
There was no evidence, the judges found, that Sambo's wife Putri Candrawati had been raped, with Santoso quoting the results of a lie detector test, which he said indicated that she had lied.
"[He] has thought of how to carry out the assassination. The defendant chose the location, the defendant chose which tool [weapon he] would use and the defendant mobilised other people to help him," Santoso said.
Candrawati, who was also charged with premeditated murder and put on trial, was awaiting her verdict on Monday as well.
Sambo, once one of Indonesia's top policemen, sat calmly in court as he learned his fate.
It was welcomed by the parents of Hutabarat, who had flown to Jakarta from their home in the province of Jambi, on the island of Sumatra.
His mother Rosti Simanjuntak carried a photograph of her deceased son as she entered the court and said she was pleased with the outcome.
"The family is grateful to the judges, the public, lawyers and the media. [The sentence] has served justice for Yosua," she said.
Kamarudin Simanjuntak, a lawyer for the family, added: "The panel of judges is independent and is used by God. They carefully considered the facts, meaning they have provided victory not only for Yosua but also for the Indonesian people."
Police had determined in their investigation that Sambo had fired a shot in the wall of his house with Hutabarat's gun to create the impression that a shootout had taken place.
Hutabarat's relatives had also discovered bruises and other wounds on his body, such as crushed finger bones, a burn mark from a cigar and a missing fingernail, after it was transported from Jakarta to Jambi last year.
The family's lawyers had also asked how Hutabarat, who was a trained sniper, could have missed with each of the seven shots it was initially claimed he had fired while another officer struck him with four of the five rounds he fired, leaving seven bullet holes.
Junior officer Second Patrolman Richard Eliezer Lumiu, who admitted to shooting Hutabarat on Sambo's orders, is due to face his own verdict on Wednesday while judges will read out their findings on Tuesday on two other Sambo staff also charged with premeditated murder.