The Yogyakarta Military Tribunal on Thursday concluded its two-and-a-half-month-long trials of the eight members of the Army Special Forces (Kopassus) who were involved in the murder of four detainees at the Cebongan Penitentiary in Sleman, Yogyakarta, in March. The convicted soldiers were sentenced in accordance with their levels of involvement and roles in the murder case.
Three officers — Second Sgt. Ucok Tigor Simbolon, Second Sgt. Sugeng Sumaryanto and Corp. Kodik — were identified as the executors of the killings and were sentenced to 11 years, eight years and six years in prison, respectively. The military tribunal also ordered the three officers dishonorably discharged. In a separate trial, five officers who supported the three main defendants in their murder of the detainees — First Sgt. Tri Juwanto, First Sgt. Anjar Rahmanto, First Sgt. Mathius Roberto Pulus Banani, First Sgt. Suprapto and First Sgt. Hermawan Siswoyo — were sentenced to one year and nine months of imprisonment each. But, unlike the main actors, they would not be discharged. Meanwhile, the verdicts of the other four officers involved in the murder case will be delivered today.
The Cebongan case was the second high-profile illegal action perpetrated by Kopassus troops, following the trial of Tim Mawar (Rose Team, a Kopassus team responsible for the kidnapping of nine political activists in 1998).
The three-member panel of judges hearing the Cebongan case deserve praise, although the jail sentences handed down to the three central figures were much lighter than the minimum sentence of 20 years imprisonment stipulated in the Criminal Code (KUHP). It would not have been easy to preside over hearings, as a mass of demonstrators supporting the defendants had been rallying inside and outside the courtroom since the trial opened in June. The demonstrations peaked on Thursday, with the mass threatening to occupy the courtroom if the defendants were found guilty.
Pressure was also mounted on journalists covering the trials. The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) recently disclosed details of intimidation attempts against the journalists.
The judges also deserve a thumbs-up for their resolve in maintaining that the murders were premeditated, thus confirming that the attack on the Cebongan Prison and the slaying of the four inmates had been carefully and thoroughly planned by the perpetrators. Still, the judges’ determination that there was premeditation leaves a big question mark over whether the 12 Kopassus soldiers had acted independently, or if there were individual(s) higher in the ranks who were actually behind the “act of vengeance” perpetrated against the four detainees — alleged murderers of a former Kopassus soldier.
It was widely reported by the media that there were wiretapped conversations among high-ranking members of the military discussing “retaliatory measures” for the murder allegedly committed by the four inmates.
The judges’ “incomplete” verdict will therefore only heighten calls for trying any non-military and off-duty criminal case implicating soldiers in regular civilian court.
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