One year later, acid attack on Indonesia's antigraft investigator still unsolved

Mobile brigade policemen attend a ceremony ahead of the Christmas and New Year celebrations in Jakarta December 21, 2017.  —Reuters pic
Mobile brigade policemen attend a ceremony ahead of the Christmas and New Year celebrations in Jakarta December 21, 2017. —Reuters pic

JAKARTA, April 17 — More than a year ago, senior antigraft investigator Novel Baswedan became a victim of a brutal acid attack, in which he became partly blind. Despite an ongoing police probe, the case remains unsolved.

Activists have described the attack as an act of terror against the independent Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).

Many also see the case as a litmus test for President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s determination to fight high-profile graft scandals.

“I have said earlier that this involves some powerful people. I also suspect police involvement,” Novel told reporters, as quoted by Suara Pembaruan.

On April 11, 2017, two men on a motorcycle threw acid on Novel’s face, as he was walking home after morning prayers at a nearby mosque in Kelapa Gading, North Jakarta.

Seriously injured, the investigator was brought to Singapore for eye surgery.

He returned to Indonesia on February 22, after 10 months of intensive treatment.

When the attack took place, Novel was leading an investigation into a multimillion-dollar corruption case surrounding the procurement of electronic identity cards, known as e-KTP, in which many prominent politicians have been implicated.

Former House of Representatives Speaker Setya Novanto, who until December was chairing the Golkar Party, is currently on trial for his involvement in the graft scandal.

Snail pace

Novel has repeatedly criticised police investigators handling the acid attack probe.

No suspects have been identified, only their composite drawings were produced by forensic experts. One man, Ahmad Lestaluhu, was released after several days of detention in May.

The probe reportedly involves more than 160 investigators, who have questioned nearly 70 witnesses and examined dozens of CCTV footage. The Australian Federal Police (AFP) are helping in the investigation.

“We are investigating the case to the best of our abilities. We’re not playing around. I’m optimistic it will be solved, it’s only a matter of time,” National Police spokesman Inspactor General Setyo Wasisto said, as quoted by state news agency Antara.

A seven-member team comprising members of the National Commission of Human Rights (Komnas HAM) and other renowned figures was set up on March 9 to oversee the prolonged probe.

The team, which is headed by Komnas HAM vice chairwoman Sandrayati Moniaga, will look into the factors impeding the investigation and monitor the ongoing judicial process.

The KPK said it will assist Komnas HAM in these efforts.

Antigraft and human rights activists have been calling for the establishment of a fact-finding team under the president. In an interview for BeritaSatu TV, Novel said it should help solve the case.

“But now it’s all up to the president. If he thinks this case should be solved in the open, then forming the joint fact-finding team would be significant,” Novel said.

In February, Jokowi said he had personally ordered National Police chief General Tito Karnavian to solve the case.

“I have told the National Police chief to solve this case. Whoever is behind it, we will pursue them,” Jokowi said, as quoted by Investor Daily.

Novel, however, said he doubts the police are taking the case seriously and is conducting an investigation with his legal team and neighbors to see how much information they will be able to collect within a month, compared with police investigators whose probe started more than a year ago. — Jakarta Globe

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