Grim day: Military Police deputy chief Brig. Gen. Unggul K. Yudhoyono pauses while talking to reporters at a press conference in Jakarta on Thursday. Unggul, who led the Army team probing the Cebongan prison killings, says nine Special Forces (Kopassus) commandos confessed to raiding the prison in retaliation for the death of one of their own. JP/Ricky Yudhistira
The Army is saying that Special Forces (Kopassus) commandos have confessed to launching an unauthorized raid on Cebongan Penitentiary in Yogyakarta that culminated in the execution-style murder of four detainees.
Military Police deputy chief Brig. Gen. Unggul K. Yudhoyono, who led the Army’s probe into the incident, said that nine soldiers assigned to Kopassus Group 2 in Kartosuro, Central Java, confessed to carrying out the attack as a “spontaneous” act in retaliation for the murder of former Kopassus commando First. Sgt. Heru Santoso at the hands of the detainees.
“The perpetrators bravely admitted to committing the crime on the first day of our investigation on March 29,” Unggul told reporters at the Kartika Media Center in Central Jakarta.
According to the investigation report, the raid was masterminded by a soldier identified as U, who encouraged eight fellow commandos to storm the prison, about two hours from their base.
“The attack was based on esprit de corps after discovering that a group of thugs had sadistically and brutally murdered First. Sgt. Heru Santoso, the assailant’s superior, who once saved his life in an operation,” Unggul said.
The soldiers said that they were also “enraged” by the unrelated assault on another Kopassus commando, First. Sgt. Sriyono, by street thugs in Yogyakarta on March 20, the deputy chief said.
Unggul recounted the details of the murders to reporters. The soldiers took two vehicles to the prison armed with assault rifles and automatic pistols from their base.
“There were two other soldiers, chasing them in a Feroza Jeep, trying to prevent their fellow soldiers from conducting the murders. But, they failed,” Unggul said.
Arriving at the prison just after midnight, U proceeded to the detainees’ cell and, in front of 31 other detainees, shot to death Johanes Juan Manbait, Gamaliel Yeremianto Rohi Riwu, Adrianus Candra Galaja and Hendrik Angel Sahetapy.
The soldiers said that they took CCTV footage from the prison as they fled, Unggul said. “In their honest confession, the soldiers said that they burned the evidence and threw it into the Bengawan Solo River.”
Unggul said that his team would transfer the case to the Army Military Police, promising fair and transparent trials for the nine soldiers allegedly involved in the raid and the two who allegedly attempted to stop the attack.
Separately, Hendardi of the Setara Institue, doubted that a military court would be transparent in trying the soldiers.
He urged President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, himself a retired general and whose brother-in-law is currently Army chief, to issue a regulation in lieu of law to try the soldiers in a civilian court.
“Without the regulation, the result of the investigation will be anticlimactic and not meet people’s sense of justice,” he said.
Meanwhile, the results of the Army’s investigation have raised several questions, foremost among them an apparent discrepancy in the number of soldiers involved in the murders.
While witnesses said 17 and not 11 men raided the prison, another team member, Kopassus Intelligence assistant Lt. Col. Richard Tampubolon, dismissed the discrepancy as confusion. “They conducted the operation at night. They are trained soldiers who can move quickly. One person can be perceived as two.”
Richard also said that the Yogyakarta Police had not tipped off the commandos as to the location of the detainees. “[U] overheard from the people nearby that there was a prisoner bus with tight security that went to Cebongan Penitentiary,” he added.
Adding to the evidence against the soldiers, National Police Cri-minal Investigations Directorate (Bareskrim) chief Comr. Gen. Sutarman said on Thursday that ballistics tests indicated that some of the bullets recovered from the crime scene were made by state-owned ammunition firm PT Pindad.
“All the bullets were shot from rifles. The firearms used were organic firearms,” Sutarman said, referring to Army-issue weapons.