Novel Baswedan Reveals Irregularities in Acid Attack Trial
Jakarta. Anti-corruption investigator Novel Baswedan said on Monday he was disappointed by the one-year prison sentence the public prosecutor had demanded for police officers Ronny Bugis and Rahmat Kadir Mahulette, who allegedly attacked and hurled acid on his face in April 2017. The prosecutor's performance during the trial, according to Novel, has been "chaotic and poor."
"It has been the embodiment of a chaotic and poor performance from a prosecutor. The problem goes far beyond the one-year prison sentence they demanded. There were a lot of signs of manipulation during the investigation and trial," Novel said on Monday.
On June 11, the public prosecutor at the North Jakarta District Court demanded a one-year jail term for both Ronny and Rahmat for their involvement in the acid attack, which caused severe injury to Novel's left eye.
The two attackers were charged with article 353 verse 2 and article 55 verse 1 of the Criminal Code (KUHP), which carries a maximum jail sentence of seven years for "premeditated torture that causes severe injury."
Novel complained of irregularities during the investigation, trial and prosecution of the case. One of them he had only found out when the indictment was read.
"The indictment said the liquid used in the attack was car battery electrolyte. There was no evidence or proof that was the substance used, except the attackers' own statements," he said in an online discussion.
Novel said the liquid used in the attack near his home in Jakarta had a strong smell and was powerful enough to ruin the concrete paving at the crime scene.
"The concrete paving had cracked and changed color from the liquid. This strongly suggests the liquid was electrolyte from a car battery. The [police's] forensic laboratory has photos, but they weren't used as evidence. I submitted the crime scene pictures to the judges at the trial, but it seems they never looked at them," he said.
Novel also said key witnesses who were at the crime scene just moments before the attack and when it happed were not presented at the trial.
"They only presented witnesses who were at the crime scene right when the attack occurred and after the attack. I have told the court the other key witnesses had not been presented but until the end of the trial that never happened," Novel said.
Asfinawati, the chairwoman of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) and one of Novel's lawyers, confirmed three key witnesses were not presented at the trial.
"These witnesses had already been questioned by the police, the National Human Rights Commission and the fact-finding team (TPF), which was established by the police. If their testimonies were not important, why were they questioned in the first place? Why didn't the public prosecutor call them to the trial? The Attorney General should explain this to the public," Asfinawati said.
The Attorney General Office should also explain the decision to demand only a one-year sentence for Novel's attackers, Asfinawati said.
"In many cases, when a prosecutor receives a complaint that the sentence they demand is either too short or too long, they would answer that it wasn't their decision but the decision of their superior, which invariably means the Indonesian Attorney General. So the Attorney General Office should be the one to explain the light sentence being demanded by the prosecutor," she said.
Asfinawati pointed to similar acid attacks in the past where the prosecutor demanded sentences longer than one year.
In 2017, prosecutors at the Mojokerto District Court in East Java charged the attacker, a man named Lamaji, with a 15-year jail sentence. The court finally handed him a 12-year sentence.
In 2019, prosecutors at the Bengkulu District Court charged Rika Sonata with 10 years in jail for hiring a man to commit an acid attack. The court sentenced her to 12 years in prison.
In the same year, prosecutors at the Palembang District Court in South Sumatra charged another acid attacker, Ahmad Irawan, with 10 years in jail for his crime. The court handed him an eight-year prison sentence.
In 2020, the Bengkulu District Court agreed with the prosecutors' demand to sentence a man named Heriyanto to 20 years imprisonment for committing an acid attack.
"The one-year sentence demanded for Novel's attackers is much lighter compared to these previous cases. The prosecutor should at least consider a ten-year jail sentence," Asfinawati said.