Ray of hope in Novel Baswedan's acid attack case

Ray of hope in Novel Baswedan's acid attack case

Novel Baswedan. (ANTARA)

Investigations into the acid attack case involving Novel Baswedan, a senior investigator of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), finally entered a new stage.

Technical team of the National Police's Criminal Division (Bareskrim) arrested two alleged perpetrators of the terror attack in Depok, West Java, on Thursday night.

Two suspects, identified by their initials as RB and RM, are active police officers, and the national police forces moved in quickly. Soon after the arrest, both were named as suspects and were taken to the Jakarta Metropolitan Police Headquarters for further examination.

In uncovering the case, the National Police had set up a Fact-Finding Team on January 8, 2019, as an implementation of the Human Rights Commission's recommendations published in December 2018.

The team comprised 65 members, including from the National Police Force or Polri, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), experts and human rights activists, who were directly appointed by Tito Karnavian, the National Police chief, at the time. The team's deadline had ended on July 7, 2019.

The team began with the initial police investigation, followed by examination of the witnesses, re-enactment of the crime scene, and accruement of information from witnesses. During the process, some three-star generals were also questioned in this case.

"In this case, three-star generals were examined. We are checking again all who were suspected," Prof. Hermawan Sulistyo, one of the team's member, stated.

After a six-month work period, the team reported its work in a 170-page report, with an attachment of 1,500 pages, to National Police Chief Karnavian.

Based on their data, the team hinted at a possibility of the attack being triggered by Baswedan's work as an investigator.

The team suspected a link between the attack and the high-profile case being handled by Baswedan at the time.

Baswedan handled six major cases, one of which might have been the reason behind the acid attack, include the KTP-e corruption case involving Setya Novanto, a bribery criminal case involving former chief of the Constitutional Court Akil Mochtar, bribery case involving Supreme Court Secretary General Nurhadi, bribery case embroiling Buol Sub-District Head Amran Batalipu, Wisma Atlet corruption case, and the bird's nest case.

The team were unable to discover facts on the motives of the perpetrators regarding personal matters. The alleged rationale was that the attack’s mastermind sensed resentment or was keen to take revenge against Baswedan on grounds of having excessively used his authority as a senior KPK investigator.

Three people suspected in this case were all unidentified and had visited the investigator's house on April 5, 2017, and two unknown people who were near the ablution spot of Al Ihsan Mosque before dawn on April 10, 2017.

Owing to the fact that the outcome of their work failed to yield any concrete results, the team also recommended that the National Police form a Technical Team to explore the whereabouts of three such unknown people.

Subsequently, the Technical Team was formed and began working on August 1, 2019. This team comprised dozens of those viewed as the best National Police Chief members led by the Bareskrim chief at the time, Police General Idham Azis. President Joko Widodo gave the team a three-month deadline until the end of October 2019.

However, October passed, but the attackers' identities remained unsolved.

The National Police Chief claimed to have worked with transparency in investigating the case.  

"We have been transparent with the KPK. We do not cover anything. We work hard. Hopefully, we would uncover the perpetrator," Chief of the PR bureau of the National Police, Brigadier General Raden Prabowo Argo Yuwono stated.

As many as 73 witnesses were questioned in the case. Moreover, Forensic Laboratory examination was conducted of 114 chemical stores and 28 CCTVs. The crime scene reconstruction was conducted up to seven times.

Evidence, in the form of surveillance camera tapes, was also sent to the Australian Police (AFP) for seeking Australian assistance to analyze low-resolution CCTV images. The police have also sketched the alleged faces of the perpetrators and distributed them to the public.

In early December, President Jokowi called the National Police Chief General Idham Azis for updates on the performance of the Technical Team. Idham pointed to new findings and spoke of the team working on the conclusion stage. The president then extended the time period for the technical team for their work until December 2019.

Chief of Bareskrim Police Commissioner General Listyo Sigit Prabowo continued to monitor the progress in investigation of the Technical Team by conducting intensive coordination.

"I gather the team almost every day to see how the progress (into the investigation) occurs," he said.

The unfortunate event with Baswedan occurred on April 11, 2017, after he performed the morning prayers, precisely at Jalan Deposito Blok T Number 10, RT 03 RW 10, Pegangsaan Dua, Kelapa Gading, North Jakarta. During that time, Novel was attacked by two motorcyclists, who hurled sulphuric acid onto his face, causing damage to his eye.

After two years and eight months into the investigation, a glimmer of hope now exists in this case being solved.

After capturing the two perpetrators, the Technical Team must then unearth the motives. It also needs to be ensured that they are not covering up for other people, who might have had greater roles in the incident.

The team was also urged to immediately expose the intellectual actors involved and not stop at the perpetrators on the field.

The case is yet to be solved, and the public awaits whether the final episode of this case leads to ultimate justice.
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EDITED BY INE

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