The Medan District Court in North Sumatra has acquitted Ebit Natalnael Simbolon, the director of the Simpang Tiga orphanage in Medan Petisah district, who was indicted of molesting a 14-year-old child under his care over the course of seven years.
The bench declared the defendant innocent, as the judges said there was no evidence to prove any wrongdoing.
“[The court] released the defendant from all charges and orders the prosecutors to immediately release [him] from detention,” presiding judge Ahmad Sumardi said during the verdict hearing on Friday.
Ebit was accused of violating Article 81 of the 2014 Child Protection Law on sexual abuse of children. The provision carries a maximum sentence of 15 years of imprisonment.
While Ahmad and another judge, Safril Batubara, ruled in favor of the defendant, another judge, Sri Wahyuni Batubara, gave a dissenting opinion. She argued that the defendant was guilty of the crime.
“As a result of the defendant’s actions, the victim experienced trauma. The defendant should be sentenced to 13 years in prison,” Sri said during the hearing.
Ebit is a member of the government-sanctioned child protection task force with 25 children under his care.
Prosecutors had demanded that the court sentence Ebit to 11 years of imprisonment. Prosecutor Robert Silalahi said his team would file an appeal with the Supreme Court.
In the indictment, prosecutors said Ebit had molested a now 14-year-old child for seven years. The child escaped from the orphanage on Nov. 30, 2019, before eventually reporting Ebit’s alleged wrongdoing to the police.
Social Affairs Ministry social worker Riri Novita Sari, who assisted the child, said she was surprised by the acquittal. She claimed that the legal team had not received a notification letter on the verdict hearing.
“This is outrageous. We’re the victim’s lawyers but we were not told to attend the hearing. This is unfair,” Riri said, adding that judge Sri Wahyuni was also surprised by the absence of the victim’s lawyers during the hearing.
She went on to say that the victim’s lawyers would report the judges to the Judicial Commission and Supreme Court. (mfp)