The Jakarta Post
Investigators from the Riau Police special crime investigation unit detained PT Langgam Inti Hibrindo (LIH) general manager Frans Katihokang after questioning him in relation to land burning for around six hours at Riau Police headquarters on Thursday.
Frans is believed to be the person most responsible for the burning down of 533 hectares of land included in the land use title (HGU) of an oil palm plantation company in Pangkalan Gondai village, Langgam district, Pelalawan regency.
Frans is the first suspect from a corporation that authorities have arrested in connection to land and forest fires in Riau this year.
Riau Police prosecutors arrested Frans at the employee boarding house of PT Mutiara Agam, subsidiary of PT LIH, in Tanjung Mutiara district, Agam regency, West Sumatra, on Wednesday. The following day they took the 48-year-old man to Riau Police headquarters and asked him 62 questions relating to his alleged negligence having caused the burning down of hundreds of hectares of PT LIH plantation land and surrounding peatland on July 27.
Frans, who wore a mask as investigators escorted him to the detention cell, refused to answer questions from journalists. 'We detained him after investigating him intensively. The detention is to protect the suspect so that he is not influenced by witnesses in the case,' said Riau Police spokesman Adj. Sr. Comr. Guntur Aryo Tejo.
He said that before naming Frans a suspect, police had investigated dozens of witnesses, including two LIH managers and village officials. They also obtained information from expert witnesses from the Bogor Institute of Agriculture and the Environment and Forestry Ministry.
Guntur said that investigators had conducted a case expose on Sept.15 and concluded that Frans should be named an individual suspect for the burning of LIH land. 'In line with his position, the suspect is the most responsible person for what has happened,' said Guntur.
The police charged Frans under Article 98 (1) and Article 99 (1) of Law No.32/2009 on environment protection and management. 'If found guilty, he faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a Rp 10 billion [US$700,000] fine,' said the police's special crime investigation unit deputy chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Ari Rahman.
Apart from LIH, he said, around 10 plantation companies in Riau were suspected of either having been involved in, or negligent in handling, land fires in their concession areas. He refused to give details about those companies but shared that 'most of them are operating in Indragiri Hulu and Indragiri Hilir regencies'. (ebf)(++++)
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