Top graft cop ‘speechless’ after former KPK staffers join murder suspect Ferdy Sambo’s legal team

KPK Investigator Novel Baswedan following his recovery from an acid attack that took place on April 11, 2017.  Photo: Istimewa
KPK Investigator Novel Baswedan following his recovery from an acid attack that took place on April 11, 2017. Photo: Istimewa

Novel Baswedan is all of us right now after former Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) staffers jumped onboard the legal team representing ex-police general Ferdy Sambo, who was charged with the murder of his bodyguard.

Novel, who was a senior investigator at KPK and widely regarded as one of the country’s dedicated graft busters, could not hide his disappointment after former KPK spokesman Febri Diansyah and former Legal Bureau staff Rasamala Aritonang were hired by attorney Arman Hanis, who is representing Sambo and his wife Putri Candrawathi.

“I am speechless over the choices Febri and Rasamala made,” Novel, who now works in the National Police’s Corruption Prevention Department, said yesterday.

“If you ask for my opinion, of course I would not advise them [to represent the defendants].”

Febri, who was a member of anti-graft watchdog Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) before joining KPK, yesterday tweeted that he understands that the public may be angered and disappointed by his decision.

Febri, however, insisted that he will represent the defendants with professionalism and objectivity.

It’s worth noting that Febri was KPK’s spokesman from 2016 to 2020. He left KPK to escape what he saw was an agency that had increasingly become susceptible to political meddling, which had compromised its integrity.

Part of said political meddling was when lawmakers enforced legislative amendments to reform KPK in 2019, one of which contained a requirement for KPK employees to pass a dubious civics exam. Novel, as well as 74 others, failed the exam and left KPK in 2021.

Novel certainly knows a thing or two about systemic injustices. In 2017, Novel was splashed in the face with acid early one morning as he was walking home from the mosque — an attack that left him blind in one eye. It took two-and-a-half years for the police to finally arrest the two culprits — both of whom are cops as well — in a drawn out saga that many say epitomizes Indonesia’s entrenched systemic corruption.

Novel’s assailants were only sentenced to two years in prison for aggravated assault. The court did not take into consideration a larger conspiracy at play despite the fact that Novel was probing several high-profile cases at the time, including a government project to issue new ID cards that allegedly saw about US$170 million pilfered from government coffers.

As for Ferdi and Rasamala, they may have to pull out all the stops to defend Sambo and his wife Putri. The former police general is facing the death penalty for the premeditative murder of his bodyguard, police brigadier Nofriansyah Yosua Hutabarat in August. Putri and several others have also been charged with murder and an audacious attempt to cover up the crime involving other members of the police force.

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