Justice Minister Wades Into Labora Sitorus Police Farce

FEBRUARY 04, 2015

Jakarta. Justice Minister Yasonna Laoly intervened to try and save Indonesia's blushes on Wednesday following the farcical news that a Papua policeman walked out of prison brandishing an officially stamped release letter, despite having been convicted only last year of laundering $132 million.

Adj. First Insp. Labora Sitorus of the Raja Ampat Police, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison in a Supreme Court appeal after a more doveish initial verdict, left the prison in Sorong district almost a year ago, in March, and has refused to return, claiming he had been legally released by the penitentiary.

Labora had with him a release letter signed by the former chief warden of the prison.

"The release letter was illegal. [On Monday] the current chief warden of Sorong Penitentiary already testified that the letter was in breach of the law," Yasonna said on Wednesday, as quoted by Detik.com.

Yasonna said he was confident that the official in question would face harsh punishment.

The Justice Ministry's director general of penitentiaries, Handoyo Sudrajat, previously said a team from the ministry had been sent to West Papua to investigate the case and question those who were responsible for Labora's release.

Labora was initially sentenced to two years in prison and fined Rp 50 million ($3,970) for illegal logging and fuel hoarding. His sentence was revised to eight years after prosecutors appealed, and the Supreme Court finally, in September last year, decided he should serve 15 years in jail and pay a Rp 5 billion fine.

Labora did not appreciate the Supreme Court ruling, however, and has found a way to walk out of jail and for no one to know about it for almost a year. Police said earlier this week that they knew where he was — staying with relatives — but that they did not want to go and arrest him for fear of sparking a standoff.