The lawyers of two police officers on trial for their alleged roles in an acid attack against Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) investigator Novel Baswedan in 2017 have demanded that their clients be cleared of the charges.
They stood up for Chief Brig. Ronny Bugis and Brig. Rahmat Kadir Mahulette – tried in separate hearings at the North Jakarta District Court on Monday – maintaining that their clients had had no intention of harming the antigraft investigator.
State prosecutors had earlier demanded a one-year prison sentence each for Ronny and Rahmat of the National Police's Mobile Brigade Corps headquarters in Kelapa Dua, Depok, West Java, for alleged torture out of a maximum 12-year sentence based on the multiple charges pressed against the two officers under Article 355 Paragraph 1, Article 353 Paragraph 2, and Article 351 Paragraph 2, coupled with Article 55 Paragraph 1 (1) of the Criminal Code.
The lawyers said in Monday’s hearings that Rahmat and Ronny had not planned the attack, describing it as a "spontaneously inclusive act", despite evidence suggesting that Rahmat had googled Novel's home address two days prior to the attack, rented a motorbike for their action and mixed the acid with water in advance.
"The defendant [Rahmat] did not have the intention to seriously injure the victim," one of the lawyers said while reading their defense statement for the suspect during a court hearing conducted online on Monday.
"Rahmat was anxious on the night before the attack. The perpetrator of a planned crime would likely have a more calm heart."
According to the lawyers, Rahmat acted independently, without any influence from superiors. They went on explaining that the motive behind the attack was “merely hatred”, while reiterating Rahmat’s statement in public that denounced Novel Baswedan as a cowardly former police officer lacking solidarity with fellow police officers.
Novel was accused of shooting a swallow nest robbery suspect during his tenure as the Bengkulu Police detective chief in 2004. Even though he was never proven guilty, police reopened an investigation into the case in 2012, after the KPK had named then-National Police Traffic Corps (Korlantas) chief Insp. Gen. Djoko Susilo a graft suspect.
The lawyers said the Bengkulu case was the reason behind Rahmat’s attack against Novel.
"The defendant only wanted to teach Novel a lesson, using acid sulfate liquid mixed with water," the lawyer added.
In a separate hearing, lawyers for Ronny maintained that Ronny had not been directly involved in the attack, as he was just "a loyal friend who was being used as a tool" by Rahmat.
"Rahmat only told Ronny to take him to deliver medicines for a sick relative in Kelapa Gading. Ronny did not know a thing about what Rahmat was about to do," the lawyers said in their defense statement.
The lawyers explained that, during the early morning attack on April 11, 2017, Ronny was riding the motorbike while Rahmat sat at the back. The motorbike swayed to the right as Rahmat attempted to throw the acid using his left hand.
“The acid water hit Novel’s face, while Rahmat initially aimed it at Novel’s body,” they said in the defense statement.
Novel's left eye sustained third-degree burns and it is now completely blind. Meanwhile, his face sustained second-degree burns.
However, the lawyers went on to claim that the injury to Novel's eye had been caused by improper treatment, not by the attack.
"The acid water concentration used by the suspect was below the usual acid liquid. According to the health expert named I Made Agus Gelgel Wirasuta, acid water of such a low concentration only causes a light effect, such as skin irritation, which could be easily treated using flowing water," the lawyers said.
After the early morning attack, Novel was taken to the Mitra Keluarga Hospital in Kelapa Gading, North Jakarta, before being referred to the Jakarta Eye Center (JEC).
"Right before the 10-day observation period ended, Novel was taken to Singapore for medication without the doctor's recommendation. Doctors regretted his hasty decision and uncooperative attitude during the medical treatment," the lawyers said.
"His condition had worsened by the time he returned from Singapore. What had been done by the medical staff at Mitra Keluarga Hospital was, in fact, correct.”
In their closing statement, the lawyers asked for the release of both Rahmat and Ronny.
"The suspects are still young, patriotic, have been cooperative throughout the trials, have admitted their faults and asked for forgiveness from Novel and his family," the lawyers pleaded.
Novel Baswedan's lawyers are scheduled to deliver their statements on June 22.
Meanwhile, social media users have aired their disappointment and disbelief at the one-year prison sentence sought by prosecutors for the two police officers on Thursday.
Comedian Bintang Emon, who gained popularity for his satirical video questioning the light sentence demand, has been verbally attacked online by other social media users accusing him of being a drug addict. Yet, those reverse attacks only led more people to voice their support for the comedian – and for Novel Baswedan.