By: Dewi Kurniawati

Indonesia executed four convicted drug traffickers on July 29, the third group execution since President Joko Widodo took office in October 2014. A firing squad killed them amid pouring rain shortly after midnight on the Nusa Kambangan penal island in Central Java.

The executed inmates were identified as Freddy Budiman from Indonesia and Seck Osmane, Michael Titus and Humphrey Jefferson Ejike – all from Nigeria or Senegal. While the public was surprised after being told that only four were executed despite the planned 14, it was a confession by Budiman in articles that circulated in local publications, just before the execution that shocked the country.

“A Bandit’s Rotten Story” by Haris Azhar, coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (KontraS), used Freddy Budiman’s drug smuggling case to show just how flawed the Indonesian legal system is, where impunity reigns.

The confession disclosed in full detail how top officials from the National Police, the National Narcotics Agency (BNN) and the Indonesian military (TNI) were deeply involved in Budiman’s illegal activities for years. Haris said he had sent the article to presidential spokesman Johan Budi on July 27, to try to get the president to issue a stay of execution. Since there was no response, Haris decided to publish the article less than 24 hours before the execution took place.

In the article, Haris said he had received an invitation from a church organization that is active in providing spiritual assistance to inmates in the Nusa Kambangan prison complex. He then had a chance to meet with a number of death-row inmates who were convicted of terrorism and those who were believed to be victims of miscarriages of justice. He chatted with Budiman for two hours, describing in detail the assistance he had received from powerful people.

The testimony reported by Haris went viral on social media, shortly before the drug kingpin was put to death by the firing squad, saying he had over the years given around Rp450 billion (US$34.42 million) to the narcotics agency and Rp90 billion to top officials at the National Police.

Once, Budiman told Haris, he had  delivered drugs from Medan, North Sumatra, using a car belonging to a two-star TNI general. The general even accompanied him in the car during the journey, he claimed.

Freddy Budiman was arrested on April 28, 2011, by the Jakarta Police’s narcotics division for smuggling 1.4 million ecstasy pills from China. He was sentenced to death by the West Jakarta District Court in 2012.

From November 2012 to July 2013, Budiman was confined at the Cipinang Narcotics Prison in East Jakarta. Although he was sentenced to death, he shocked the Indonesian public as he was still able to carry on his drug dealing activities from within his prison cell. He was then transferred to Batu Prison on Nusakambangan island in July 2013.

He dodged avoided execution at least twice as his lawyer team had kept postponing a plan to file for a case review. 

As expected, instead of cleaning up their own acts, the Indonesian Military, the National Police and the narcotics agency filed a report against Haris with the police’s Criminal Investigation Department, accusing him of violating defamation provisions in the 2008 Electronic Information and Transactions Law.

“We will check the truth of the statement. If it was correct, we will take further action,” TNI chief Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo said on Aug. 6 as quoted by kompas.com, commenting on the part of the story  of the delivery of the drugs in the two-star general’s car.

The National Police will also probe the testimony and plan to contact Haris regarding the article, National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Boy Rafli Amar said. Meanwhile, narcotics bureau spokesman Sr. Comr. Slamet Pribadi stressed that the agency would take firm action if there were members proven to be involved in Budiman’s drug business.

Legal experts have since called for the government to provide protection for Haris, while The Witness and Victim Protection Agency (LPSK) said law enforcers needed to cooperate with those who had information and make them justice collaborators, not criminalize them.

More than 100 people are currently on death row in Indonesia primarily for drug-related crimes, according to the Justice Ministry. Last year, the country executed 14 death row convicts.  Jokowi, as the president is known, has taken a tough stance against drug trafficking since his election in 2014, saying the country is facing a drug emergency.  It is an emergency, however, that appears confined to the poor and powerless, and not two-star generals.