Joint Fact-Finding Team fails to resolve Novel Baswedan case: Chief of Criminal Investigation now leads field investigation team

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TGPF gives out recommendations to the National Police in the form of a field technical team to continue the case of Novel Baswedan to the National Police Criminal Investigation Department (Bareskrim). photo: IO/Ramdani)

IO, Jakarta – It has been two years since the Corruption Eradication Commission (Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi – “KPK”) Novel Baswedan suffered a vicious attack that nearly blinded him. Even after 821 days, the Police have failed to officially reveal who splashed the sulfuric acid that destroyed one of Novel’s eyes and severely damaged the other, let alone the brains behind the attack.

As we all know, Novel was attacked on 11 April 2017 after he has performed Subuh (dawn) prayers at Masjid Al Ikhsan, Kelapa Gading, North Jakarta. At the urging of the people and the National Commission of Human Rights (Komisi Nasional Hak Asasi Manusia – “Komnas HAM”), KPK concluded that the Police investigation of the acid attack against Novel Baswedan has stalled.

Finally, RI Police were prodded into setting up a Joint Fact-finding Team (Tim Gabungan Pencari Fakta – “TGPF”) to resolve the acid attack case with a tenure of 6 months, ending on 7 July 2019. The TGPF is comprised of 65 members, mostly originating from the police. Other members are experts: former KPK Vice Chairman Indriyanto Seno Adji, Indonesian Institute of Sciences (Lembaga Ilmu Pengetahuan Indonesia – “LIPI”) Researcher Hermawan Sulistyo, human rights activist and Chairman of Setara Institute Hendardi, National Police Commissioner Commander Poengky Indarti, former Komnas HAM Commissioner Nur Kholis, plus Ifdhal Kasim and five other members of KPK.

After working for 6 months, the TGPF finally submitted certain results. Even though it based its investigation on the previous investigation results of the Police, the Team did not take any information obtained by the Police – such as the alibis of suspects and witnesses – at face value. Therefore, they rechecked relevant scenes and reenacted the case. They questioned new witnesses, collected new facts, and analyzed a number of potential motives for the acid attack against Novel Baswedan.

TGPF Spokesman Nur Kholis stated that the 2700-page report containing the Team’s findings will be submitted to the Chief of Police, including the Team’s recommendation that the Chief of Police form a Field Technical Team to follow up on TGPF’s findings. “The Team’s 6 months of work still cannot reveal who splashed acid on Novel Baswedan. The Team recommends that the Police perform further investigation on the two suspects of the attack captured by CCTV. The only problems are that the two perpetrators wore full face helmets, and that the CCTV capture was rather darkened. We further recommend that the Police perform digital tracking in order to find clues that would help solve the case,” he said at Awaluddin Jamin Building, the Police’s Criminal Investigation Division.

Nur Kholis stated that the acid used by the two perpetrators was not concentrated sulfuric acid, because Novel’s injuries were not so bad that his face did not peeled off, his clothing was not badly damaged, and he has not died. Therefore, Nur Kholis concluded that the attack was not meant to kill Novel, but merely to cause him to suffer. He further stated that the attack was caused by the cases Novel was working on at the time. The Team mentioned that he was working on at least 6 high-profile cases (i.e. involving high officials): the e-ID case, the case involving former Chairman of the Constitution Court, the case involving the Supreme Court General Secretary, the case involving the Regent of Buol, the Athlete Dormitory project case, and the case of swallow nests in Bengkulu. “Our interview with Novel Baswedan reveals that he has no personal enemies, conflicts, or issues,” Hendardi added.

As the follow up to TGPF’s recommendation, Head of the Police Public Relations Division, Police Inspector General Muhammad Iqbal stated that the Police would immediately form a field technical investigation team to be directly led by the Chief of Criminal Investigation Division of the Police, Police General Commander Idham Azis. “The Chief of Police has appointed the Chief of Criminal Investigation Division of the Police to head the field investigation team. The Chief of Criminal Investigation Division of the Police in turn has the authority to appoint the best personnel to perform scientific investigation using our resources,” he said.

The Head of the Police PR Division denied that the Police have stalled or resisted in solving Novel’s case. He also rejected the notion that other elements are said to be obstructed to the solution of the case. He stated that all cases are different, and they require different times to solve. “We are not playing around, but each case simply has different levels of difficulties. We have involved the help from many sources, including the Australian police. Therefore, we request that the people remain patient. We are doing our work, and we refuse to let anyone tell us how to do our work, even by the one giving us the mandate. We do not base our work on rumors such as this general or that being involved in the planning of the attack, but on the facts that we found,” he said.

Lalola Easter, Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW) activist, is skeptical about TGPF’s ability to solve Novel Baswedan’s case. They have so far failed to discover who the perpetrators are, let alone the brains behind the attack. Lalola wants an independent team who is directly responsible to the President, not to the Chief of Police, to investigate the case. This is because the appointment of the Team was made through Presidential Decree. “We believe from the start that an independent team would be able to solve the case of attack against Novel Baswedan,” she said. (dan)