Jakarta – Former National Police general Ferdy Sambo could not escape the guilty verdict handed down by the South Jakarta District Court on Monday, nor will the police be able to simply wash their hands of this crime perpetrated by one of their top officers.
In the ruling, the judges said the evidence had proven beyond doubt that the former police internal affairs chief had planned the killing of his aide-de-camp Brig. Nofriansyah Yosua Hutabarat. Surprisingly, the court sentenced the disgraced officer to death, a significant step beyond the life in prison sought by the prosecutors.
Ferdy's guilty verdict brought the four-month murder trial to its climax.
The same court later in the day gave his wife, Putri Candrawathi, 20 years of imprisonment for taking part in the premeditated murder, even harsher than the eight years demanded by the prosecutors.
On trial separately are two other police officers and a driver. Their verdicts will arrive in the coming days.
The July 8, 2022, murder captured the imagination of the Indonesian public, and several TV stations broadcast nearly every minute of the five suspects' trials since they began in October. Social media has been filled with comments, from experts and non-experts alike, some clamoring for Ferdy's blood. We sincerely hope that the court's decision, including the death sentence, was not influenced by this stream of commentary.
As the details of the murder plot unfolded in court, we learned not only of the killing, but also of the attempts at a cover-up, including the tampering with the CCTV in Sambo's Jakarta residence, where the murder took place. The court rejected Sambo's claim that Yosua had raped his wife Putri Candrawathi and instead found merit in the prosecutors' contention that she and Yosua had been engaged in a love affair.
Even though the public's sometimes prurient interest in the case seemed more fitting of a TV drama, this was a real-life case and Yosua's death was very real – clearly a case of a senior officer abusing his power and influence, with the apparent help of other members of the institution.
The court said Ferdy's crime had tarnished the reputation of the National Police, and the trial has indeed left many unanswered questions about what is going on inside the institution, many of which were beyond the court's remit in the case. It is clear that more answers must be found and that the force must be cleaned up.
For example, Richard Elizar who is being tried separately for the murder of Yosua, has claimed he was carrying out Ferdy's orders and felt he could not refuse. The six officers tried for obstruction of justice have presented similar defenses.
The court also did not follow up on Ferdy's claim that he had reported the incident, only hours after, to National Police Chief Gen. Listyo Sigit Prabowo. How much did he know, and why did he remain silent until the case came to light four days later?
The court did not look into allegations that Ferdy had offered billions of rupiah to each of the four alleged accomplices to go along with his cover-up tale that a shootout had led to Yosua's death, instead of a cold-blooded murder. And reports that bank accounts under Yosua's name were emptied shortly after his death also went uninvestigated.
And how could Ferdy's wealth be so beyond what a police officer's salary, even that of a top one, provide. Why did the early allegations that he had been backing a nationwide illegal gambling syndicate disappear.
Ferdy will no doubt appeal, but in the meantime, the police must answer the questions of the public. Failing that, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo must intervene to save the National Police.