National Police Chief Idham Azis, left, shakes hand with Corruption Eradication Commission Chairman Agus Raharjo during their meeting in Jakarta on Nov. 4. (Antara Photo/Aditya Pradana Putra)

Not Close and No Cigar: Two Years On, Police Still in the Dark Over Novel's Acid Attack


NOVEMBER 20, 2019

Jakarta. National Police Chief General Idham Azis spoke at length about how his officers had done everything they could to find the perpetrators of an acid attack on top anti-graft investigator Novel Baswedan during a hearing with a House of Representatives commission on Wednesday.

However, he was still unable to provide the names of any potential suspects more than two years into the case.

Idham told Commission III members who oversee legal affairs that some criminal cases could be solved instantly, while other cases might have investigators working fruitlessly for years.

"Our investigators [in the Novel case] have questioned 73 witnesses, examined footages from 78 CCTV cameras and worked with the AFP [Australian Federal Police] to analyze the CCTV recordings," Idham told the commission.

Idham, in only his third week as police chief, mentioned the brutal murder of five people in a home in Pulomas, East Jakarta, in December 2016, as an example when police took only days to find and arrest the suspects thanks to CCTV footages from the house.

On the other hand, the police have been working in vain for more than four years to solve the murder of a University of Indonesia student, despite having interrogated 28 witnesses, Idham said. Akseyna Ahad Dori was found dead near a lake at the university's campus in Depok in March 2015.

In the Novel case, police investigators had collected information from people who were around the crime scene when the attack happened, including guests at a nearby hotel and tenants in boarding houses around the area.

They have also searched 114 chemical stores within a radius of 1 kilometer from the crime scene, Idham said.

Two men on a motorcycle hurled acid on Novel's face as he was walking back to his home in South Jakarta in April 2017 after joining the dawn prayer at a nearby mosque.

The attack was captured by a public CCTV camera but police said they were unable to identify the attackers because the available footages were of poor quality.

Police initially arrested three men suspected of carrying out the attack but they were later released due to lack of evidence.

The National Police have set up an internal oversight team to monitor the investigation, allowing external parties to get involved, Idham said.

Before being sworn in as police chief on Nov. 1, Idham headed the National Police's criminal investigation agency, or Bareskrim, which led the investigation into the Novel case.

Idham said the police had followed a recommendation from the National Commission for Human Rights to establish a seven-member fact-finding team involving academics.

Despite the lack of progress in the investigation and amid pressures from the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), Idham vowed to continue the police's efforts to identify and arrest Novel's attackers.

"We will allow the KPK to monitor the ongoing investigation by the National Police," he told the hearing.