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Indonesian police on trial in lurid murder of general’s bodyguard | Crime News

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Medan, Indonesia – The arrest of a two-star general on suspicion of the murder of his bodyguard has riveted Indonesians in a case that threatens to undermine public confidence in a police force that has been undergoing reform since the end of strongman Soeharto’s rule more than 20 years ago.

Brigadier Nopryansyah Yosua Hutabarat known as Brigadier J, the bodyguard and driver of Inspector General Ferdy Sambo, the head of Internal Affairs for the Indonesian National Police, was found dead at Sambo’s home in Jakarta on July 8.

The 27-year-old had been shot multiple times.

Initially, police told the public that Hutabarat had been killed at Sambo’s home by another member of his security detail known as Second Patrolman E who had allegedly shot Hutabarat after catching him sexually assaulting Sambo’s wife Putri Candrawati.

Sambo, whose job focussed on internal police discipline, at first said that he was taking a PCR test for COVID-19 at the time of the shooting, but in the days that followed, conflicting information emerged of affairs, cover-ups and nefarious business practices.

On August 9, he was arrested and named a suspect in the premeditated murder of Hutabarat. Ten days later, Sambo’s wife was also picked up on suspicion of premeditated murder, and helping him cover up the killing of Hutabarat.

If found guilty, Sambo could face the death penalty or life in prison. Police have not explained why they detained Putri Candrawati.

The head of Amnesty Indonesia, Usman Hamid, told Al Jazeera that the case raised grave concerns.

“It‘s an unlawful and extrajudicial killing that was manipulated by the police as a lawful killing. If they could do it to a policeman, how about regular citizens killed by the police?” he said.

“The investigation into Joshua’s murder [Hutabarat] has been protracted and full of irregularities because of the weak democratic oversight of the police.”

Twists and turns

Hutabarat’s killing was not made public until July 11, and was followed by protests from his family who said they had been told not to open his coffin when his remains were returned to his hometown for burial. Ignoring the directive, relatives said they were shocked to discover evidence of torture on Hutabarat’s body after they looked inside the coffin.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, the family’s lawyer Kamaruddin Simanjuntak said that the family had pushed for Hutabarat’s body to be exhumed at the end of July and for a second autopsy. The results had been shocking, the lawyer said.

“He had been shot five times in the face, head, neck and foot, and there were signs of torture on his body,” Simanjuntak said. “He had wounds on his face, bruises to both sides of his chest, his fingers were broken and he could not straighten his left leg.”

Simanjuntak says during the second autopsy, Hutabarat’s brain was found in his chest cavity, and that he suspected that the doctors who had performed the first autopsy at the behest of the police had neglected to return it to his skull. The victim’s bladder, pancreas and gallbladder were also missing, he added.

Police in riot gear stand guard during a protest in April 2022
Indonesia’s police force has been undergoing reform since the collapse of Soeharto’s ‘New Order’ regime at the end of the 1990s [File: Willy Kurniawan/Reuters]

The twists and turns of the case, reminiscent of a soap opera, have transfixed Indonesia.

Police initially said that the security camera system around Sambo’s home had been hit by lightning and was not working at the time of the killing.

Reliant on witnesses, they said that Hutabarat had been engaged in a firefight with a 24-year-old junior officer, Richard Eliezer Pudihang Lumliu, during which he had fired seven shots at Eliezer but had failed to hit him, something which his family said was implausible since Hutabarat was a trained sniper while Eliezer was a low-ranking policeman.

Later, police said they had managed to find some footage, but their big break came when Eliezer was taken into custody on August 4 and told police that 49-year-old Sambo had ordered him to shoot Hutabarat, and that Sambo had fired Hutabarat’s gun at the wall to make it appear as if there had been a firefight. He has since applied for assistance under Indonesia’s Witness Protection Programme and seems to have reached a deal with prosecutors.

Jacqui Baker, a lecturer in Southeast Asian politics at Murdoch University in the Australian city of Perth, says the scandal raises questions about the process of largely self-determined institutional reform that the Indonesian police (Polri) have been engaged in since the end of President Soeharto’s rule in 1998.

“That reform promised more democratic and professional policing that truly served the community. 24 years on, where are we at with the Polri’s democratic reform? The core issues of systematic corruption, egregious entitlement and brutal violence have survived over two decades,” she said.

During the Soeharto regime, which lasted for 30 years, Indonesia’s police force had a reputation for corruption and cronyism. Subsequent administrations have sought to reform law enforcement and make the force more accountable.

“We were told that between presidential oversight, the parliament and the National Police Commission (Kompolnas), the police institution would be effectively scrutinised,” Baker said, adding however that this scandal appears to have shown that any reform has been ineffective.

“I think we need to go back to the drawing board to reconsider how the police are established, trained, governed and how oversight is maintained because this scandal shows us that corruption and political factionalism continue to loom large within the police institution,” she said.

Public trust

While the developments in the case have played out like an Indonesian soap opera at times, the public has become increasingly scandalised by the purported cover-up of the killing in the early days and the apparent arrogance of the police force.

More than 80 officers from different branches of the police, including internal affairs and staff from Jakarta’s police headquarters, have been questioned about any potential cover-up as a result of the incident.

Some have been transferred to other positions and others recommended for custodial sentences, leading to Sugeng Teguh Santoso, the chairman of Indonesia Police Watch calling the saga, “the worst scandal in the police’s history”.

Sambo faced an ethics committee last week, which dishonourably discharged him from the force, although he had tendered his resignation the day before. He now says that he plans to appeal against the ruling.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, has also commented on the case, calling for a thorough investigation.

“Open it as it is. No cover-up. Transparent. That’s it. This is important so that the people don’t have doubts over the incident that occurred. This is what has to be maintained. Public trust in the police must be maintained,” he said on the day Sambo was arrested and charged.

Armed Brimob officers in fatigues on guard outside as officers search the home of Ferdy Sambo
Sambo was named a suspect in his bodyguard’s murder on August 9, with officers from Indonesia’s mobile brigade standing guard outside his house in Jakarta during Sambo’s arrest [File: Mast Irham/EPA]

Muhamad Isnur, the head of Indonesia’s Legal Aid Institute, says the case shows how violence is increasingly normalised and even tolerated by the police.

“We know that violence during police interrogations and in custody is common. Sambo is just the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “There is also a structural problem in the police force which asks how could someone like Sambo condition so many of his subordinates to cover this up?”

Isnur also says there should be a full investigation into whether Sambo was involved in other illicit activities — Indonesian media have published lurid reports about supposed online gambling — and closer scrutiny of how corruption spreads through the force.

“How did he influence so many officers from different departments, not just in from his own department, but also staff at the Jakarta police headquarters and others who all acquiesced to him,” he said.

“This structure has to be fixed immediately.”

Lawyer Simanjuntak told Al Jazeera that, in his opinion, Hutabarat had been killed because he possessed “top secret” information about Sambo that the former general wanted to remain hidden.

The police have not officially commented on the motive for the murder, and Simanjuntak says the case will now be passed to the public prosecutor.

Sambo is due to face trial in the coming weeks, but in the court of public opinion the police have already been found wanting.


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Eight Mbale hospital staff held in State House raid

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The State House Health Monitoring Unit (HMU) in liaison with Police in Mbale City have arrested eight staff of Mbale Regional Referral Hospital over corruption and mismanagement of patients.

The arrest of the officials followed a two-week investigation by the Monitor and NTV Uganda, subsidiaries of Nation Media Group, into impropriety at the region’s largest public health facility.

The investigation unearthed a cartel involving some doctors, nurses, clinicians, and administrative support staff at the blood bank, guards, and other attendants that work together with private clinics near the hospital.

 The Mbale City Police Commander, Mr Samuel Abbedi Aliria, said those arrested will soon be taken to court.

“Most of the arrested are hospital staff for corruption and mismanagement of patients. They are currently detained at Mbale city Central police station,” he said.

The Monitor has learnt that about 20 people were amputated at the hospital after being mismanaged by either quacks or junior medical workers.

Mr Abbedi said as a result of beefing up security in the hospital, police managed to arrest a hawker, who has been stealing mobile phones from caretakers and patients at the facility for long.

A source familiar with the investigations told this newspaper that they are digging into procurement, financial and human resource management systems of the hospital that have led to smuggling patients from the facility to private clinics.

Dr Ayella Ataro, the assistant director of the State House Health Monitoring Unit, said they are following up the public outcry about the poor service delivery in the hospital.

 “Patients have fallen prey to these extortion and bribery syndicates, the effect on some of them is profoundly long-lasting,” Dr Ataro said.

 A 20-year-old boy, who requested not to be named,  said he was admitted to the hospital last December following a motorcycle accident that left him with a compound fracture.

After a few days at the hospital where he was barely attended to, he says he was sneaked out of the facility by unknown people to a private clinic in Nkoma Ward, Northern Division.

 At the clinic, the boy immediately underwent an x-ray and an operation that included clamping his bones, which cost Shs1.5m. Three months after the operation, the bone clamps snapped and his injuries degenerated.

 Scans conducted later showed the first operation was poorly conducted. For a new corrective operation, he required Shs4.5m which he doesn’t have.

The Mbale Resident City Commissioner, Mr Ahamada Washaki, said the intervention by  State House has changed the situation in the hospital.

Dr Warren Namara, the Executive Director of the State House Health Monitoring Unit, said they will leave no stone unturned.

“We are investigating a number of things and we have discovered a lot,” Dr Namara said.

Eight Mbale hospital staff

The State House Health Monitoring Unit (HMU) in liaison with Police in Mbale City have arrested eight staff of Mbale Regional Referral Hospital over corruption and mismanagement of patients.

The arrest of the officials followed a two-week investigation by Daily Monitor and NTV Uganda, subsidiaries of Nation Media Group, into impropriety at the region’s largest public health facility.

The investigation unearthed a cartel involving some doctors, nurses, clinicians, and administrative support staff at the blood bank, guards, and other attendants that work together with private clinics near the hospital.

 The Mbale City Police Commander, Mr Samuel Abbedi Aliria, said those arrested will soon be taken to court.

“Most of the arrested  are hospital staff for corruption and mismanagement of patients. They are currently detained at Mbale city Central police station,” he said.

Daily Monitor has learnt that about 20 people were amputated at the hospital after being mismanaged by either quacks or junior medical workers.

Mr Abbedi said as a result of beefing up security in the hospital, police managed to arrest a hawker, who has been stealing mobile phones from caretakers and patients at the facility for long.

A source familiar with the investigations told this newspaper that they are digging into procurement, financial and human resource management systems of the hospital that have led to smuggling patients from the facility to private clinics.

Dr Ayella Ataro, the assistant director of the State House Health Monitoring Unit, said they are following up the public outcry about the poor service delivery in the hospital.

 “Patients have fallen prey to these extortion and bribery syndicates, the effect on some of them is profoundly long-lasting,” Dr Ataro said.

 A 20-year-old boy, who requested not to be named,  said he was admitted to the hospital last December following a motorcycle accident that left him with a compound fracture.

After a few days at the hospital where he was barely attended to, he says he was sneaked out of the facility by unknown people to a private clinic in Nkoma Ward, Northern Division.

 At the clinic, the boy immediately underwent an x-ray and an operation that included clamping his bones, which cost Shs1.5m. Three months after the operation, the bone clamps snapped and his injuries degenerated.

 Scans conducted later showed the first operation was poorly conducted. For a new corrective operation, he required Shs4.5m which he doesn’t have.

The Mbale Resident City Commissioner, Mr Ahamada Washaki, said the intervention by  State House has changed the situation in the hospital.

Dr Warren Namara, the Executive Director of the State House Health Monitoring Unit, said they will leave no stone unturned.

“We are investigating a number of things and we have discovered a lot,” Dr Namara said.


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For Iranian protesters, a digital double-edged sword

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Iran’s anti-government protests, which were sparked by the death of a young woman in police custody, have gone viral, and then some.

The internet is an essential tool for these demonstrators. For more than a week, millions have shared wrenching videos and vivid online images of confrontations between protesters and Iranian authorities.

They’ve topped news broadcasts and ricocheted across the globe.

The hard-line government in Tehran has deployed digital trackers and waged an all-out media war against protesters and their supporters — a strategy it used in 2019 to quash protests in just three days. Back then, authorities took control of the internet and unleashed a violent crackdown that resulted in thousands of arrests and as many as 1,500 deaths.

This time is different. The protests are well into their second week and show little sign of waning.

They began Sept. 16 after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who allegedly had violated the country’s conservative dress code, and quickly tapped into wider discontent with government corruption and declining living standards. Officials say 41 people have been killed, including demonstrators and police, and 1,200 arrested, while rights groups claim much higher figures.

A key reason protesters have been able to keep the demonstrations going and maintain the world’s attention: They were ready to do battle in cyberspace.

“In 2019, everybody was shocked authorities could impose a massive internet shutdown, but this time many predicted it would happen,” said Mahbod, a 27-year-old student at Tehran’s Sharif University. Like others interviewed, he gave only his first name for fear of reprisals.

Hackers and tech experts worldwide have weighed in to help cyber-savvy activists organize, fight back and dominate in the digital domain — a key battleground that Iran’s leadership, more than ever, appears unable to control.

Hours after the protests began, internet monitor Netblocks reported a 33% loss in connectivity in Tehran, which later spread to other cities and provinces across Iran.

But activists quickly outmaneuvered the government, turning to Instagram and WhatsApp — some of the few social media sites still functioning — to call for demonstrations or set up meeting points. They started a hashtag under the Persian version of #Mahsa_Amini that was retweeted by some 30 million people despite the shutdown. It has reached more than 100 million users, making it the most retweeted hashtag in Twitter’s history, Iranian opposition outlets say.

Then on Wednesday, the government restricted access to most social media, curtailing it sharply between 4 p.m. and approximately 1 a.m., when most protests take place. Apple and Google Play stores are blocked to prevent people from installing Virtual Private Network (VPN) apps they could use to circumvent surveillance.

Still, Mahbod’s more tech-inclined friends at university share information on which software and settings to use; it’s not uncommon for people to have four or five different programs to switch between depending on the day and area.

“The VPNs we use are much more complex than they were a few years ago,” said Mehdi, a 39-year-old self-described computer geek from Tehran. “Cheap ones you need to switch every three or four days, but the more expensive ones with subscriptions work well.”

Help has also come from outside Iran’s borders. The tech collective Anonymous has hacked government websites, including that of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. On Sunday, it doxxed members of parliament, releasing lawmakers’ phone numbers and other data.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Treasury Department on Friday eased sanctions by authorizing technology companies to offer “secure, outside platforms and services” to Iranian users.

“As courageous Iranians take to the streets to protest the death of Mahsa Amini, the United States is redoubling its support for the free flow of information to the Iranian people,” Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo said in a statement.

“With these changes, we are helping the Iranian people be better equipped to counter the government’s efforts to surveil and censor them,” the statement added.

Hours later, tech entrepreneur Elon Musk said that the Starlink satellite system, which relies on a low-Earth-orbit satellite network to offer broadband internet, was now activated in Iran.

Tehran soon blocked access to the Starlink website, and dummy activation links containing malware were planted in the Iranian Twittersphere in an apparent attempt to lure anti-government protesters.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani on Saturday said that by loosening communication-related sanctions but keeping up others, “America is seeking to advance its own goals against Iran with hypocrisy.”

He added that “attempts at violating the Iranian sovereignty will not go unanswered.”

Iranian tech experts working abroad have also joined the fray. Kooshiar Azimian, who heads the U.S.-based biotech company 310.ai and is a former Facebook engineer, regularly gives updates on his Instagram page on the latest method for accessing internet service in Iran.

Another U.S.-based Iranian computer scientist, Moshfegh Hamedani, has posted information on Twitter on how to bypass website filtering, and excoriated programmers working with the government.

A growing chorus of government officials are threatening punishment for those who take part in the unrest.

Iran’s hard-line judicial chief, Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi, said in a visit to police headquarters this week that protesters, whom he described as rioters, were “the foot soldiers of the enemies of the Islamic Republic.” Echoing previous harsh statements by President Ebrahim Raisi, he declared that those who defy authorities would be shown “no leniency.”

Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment tweeted that the government wanted to restrict internet access “so it can repress people in the dark.”

The best way the United States and other Western allies can help Iranians, he wrote, is to keep the Iranian government from blocking access to the internet. Protesters’ best hope of effecting change, Sadjadpour said, lies in “connecting with one another and the outside world.”

Special correspondent Khazani reported from Tehran and Times staff writer Bulos from Beirut.


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Man jailed for violating sex offender conditions of parole – The Morgan Messenger

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West Virginia State Police troopers have jailed a Berkeley Springs man on charges that he violated the requirements of his sec offender registry here.

According to a criminal complaint filed in Morgan County Magistrate Court, Roy Rankin Jr., 36, of Rankin Lane was arrested on a warrant issued September 22 for failing to register or update information with the West Virginia Sex Offender Registry.

Sgt. J.D See reported that the State Police had been contacted in July by Rankin’s parole officer, who asked that Rankin’s cell phone be examined.

At that time, Rankin was on parole for a Pennsylvania conviction in 2019 for indecent assault and corruption of minors. The sex offender registry specifies that Rankin’s victim was a female under the age of 5, and that Rankin served three months in prison and given five years’ probation.

Sgt. See reported that Rankin’s parole has special conditions, including that he was not to purchase or use any explicit materials or devices, that he was not permitted to use any computer or device with internet access without authorization of his parole officer, and that he must report any internet access or accounts to the parole officer.

Upon examining the SIM card in Rankin’s cell phone, the West Virginia State Police found the device contained instant messages, social media accounts, web bookmarks and web internet history, plus data files from more than 100,000 images, 5,158 videos and texts, plus an email address.

Police reportedly found no pornographic images or evidence of child pornography but did find photos of young girls and videos of young girls dancing.

Rankin’s sex offender registry information had not been updated to reflect his new cell phone number or his email address.

Rankin was jailed at the Eastern Regional Jail in lieu of a $20,000 cash or surety bond.




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