“Have we forgotten? Fourteen years ago, Aug. 13, 1996, Fuad Muhammad Syafruddin journalist of [Yogyakarta-based] Bernas daily, stopped writing. His death still leaves a big question mark,” Yogyakarta’s Independent Journalists Association (AJI) wrote Monday.
In a letter called “Petition to Fight Forgetting”, Yogyakarta AJI head Pito Agustin Rudiana and secretary Masjidi, said the Yogyakarta Police had yet to find the people behind the death of Syafruddin, better known as Udin.
“Fourteen years is not a short time, and the Yogyakarta Police have changed its chief several times,” Pito said. “They have failed to find the one responsible.”
The AJI said it would send the petition to the National Police chief, asking them to take over the investigation from the Yogyakarta Police. The AJI also said they feared the police would close the case as the Criminal Code stipulated investigators could declare a case had “expired” and close the possibility of reopening the case after 12 years for crimes with punishments of more than three years and 18 years for crimes punishable to life imprisonment or the death sentence.
Some premeditated murder cases could fall into the life imprisonment category, which means the police could close Udin’s case four years from now.
Udin was beaten to death by an unidentified man in his house in Bantul, Yogyakarta. Many believed his death was related to his writings on several cases surrounding then Bantul regent Sri Roso Sudarmo.
Udin wrote on at least three topics, which were said to irritate the regent: alleged embezzlement of funds in underdeveloped villages, alleged corruption in a planned megaproject in Yogyakarta’s coastal area Parangtritis and Sri Roso’s promise to give president Soeharto’s Dharmais Foundation Rp 1 billion (US$111,000) if he was reelected regent. It was said Sri Roso was upset the most with the latter.
A young detective at Bantul Police, Edy Wuryanto, was then in charge of finding Udin’s killer. He had a different story: Udin’s murder was more a crime of passion. Udin was having an affair with Sunarti, his high school friend. Sunarti’s husband, Dwi Sumaji or Iwik, killed him motivated by jealousy.
Prosecutors at Iwik’s trial, however, changed their mind in the middle of the process, asking the judge to free Iwik of all charges after a series of evidence and testimonies lead the case away from Iwik. Later, Iwik said Edy had told him to fabricate the story. He was promised money and employment from Edy’s friend, a businessman.
Edy also intentionally lost key evidence, Udin’s work notes that were said to contain information on the Parangtritis megaproject and Sri Roso’s promise to Dharmais.
In 2005, Edy was sentenced to 20 months in prison by the Yogyakarta Military Court for tampering with evidence.
The police, however, seemed to believe Iwik was guilty and blamed the prosecutors for demanding an acquittal for their suspect.
The AJI also sent a letter to the National Commission for Human Rights on Monday, asking the commission to help push for a new investigation of Udin’s murder. The AJI said the cloud on Udin’s case was a bad precedent for press freedom.
AJI’s Pito said 12 years of reform had not fully guaranteed press freedom as violence toward journalists still occurred.
Last week, AJI’s national office released a report saying there were 40 threats and violent cases toward journalists nationwide in the past year.
Of 40, 10 threats and counts of violence were committed by hostile mass organizations, replacing the police force, guilty of intimidation the most last year.