The trial of a former Indonesian police officer accused of orchestrating the murder of his bodyguard has begun in Jakarta.
The trial of Ferdy Sambo, a former two-star general and head of internal affairs for Indonesia’s national police, began on Monday and is expected to last for weeks.
Keep readinglist of 4 items
The case is seen as a test of accountability for the country’s police force after it was accused of initially trying to cover up the crime.
Police had initially said the bodyguard, 27-year-old Brigadier Nopryansyah Yosua Hutabarat, was killed in a shoot-out with another officer at Sambo’s residence in Jakarta on July 8. But claims by Hutabarat’s family that there were signs of torture on the bodyguard’s body led to a second autopsy, which saw the police version of events unravel.
Sambo, who was dishonourably discharged in August, has been charged with premeditated murder – which can carry the death penalty – and obstruction of justice.
In court on Monday, a prosecutor alleged Sambo had ordered one of his officers to shoot Hutabarat, before putting a final bullet in the back of his head and firing his gun into the wall to create the appearance of a shoot-out.
“Defendant Ferdy Sambo approached the victim Nofriansyah Yosua Hutabarat, who was lying face down and still moving in pain near the stairs next to the bathroom,” Prosecutor Sugeng Hariadi read from an indictment letter in the South Jakarta District Court.
“Then, to make sure that he was really dead, defendant Ferdy Sambo, who was already wearing black gloves, grabbed a firearm and shot once into the left side of the back of Nopriansyah Yosua Hutabarat’s head,” he added.
Prosecutors said the motive was a belief the bodyguard had sexually assaulted Sambo’s wife.
Sambo’s lawyer declined to say how his client would plead. But in a news conference last week, he said Sambo had ordered that Hutabarat be assaulted, not shot.
In total, five people, including Sambo, his wife, two police officers and a driver, are facing charges of premeditated murder in relation to Hutabarat’s death.
A lawyer for Sambo’s wife declined to comment on her plea.
Intense public scrutiny is now focusing on the outcome of a trial that experts say is one of the biggest scandals to ever hit the police.
“This is a test not only for the police but also for the attorney general office and the court. It’s a test for our criminal justice system,” Ardi Manto Adiputra, deputy director of rights group Imparsial, told the AFP news agency.
Ahead of the trial, police chief Listyo Sigit Prabowo said there had been attempts to destroy evidence in the case.
In a statement on August 24, Prabowo said 97 officers were being investigated, with 35 accused of ethical violations.
The police force, which ranked as the least trusted of Indonesia’s law enforcement bodies in a recent survey by pollster Indikator, is also facing pressure over its role in a deadly football stampede earlier this month that killed more than 130 people.