Fri, 18 Jul 2003

Drug dealing police officer escapes death penalty

Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post, Medan, North Sumatra

The Medan District Court in North Sumatra province sentenced on Thursday a police officer found guilty of drug dealing to eight years in prison and fined him Rp 50 million.

The jail term appeared lenient as prosecutors had demanded that Adj. Comr. Bakhtiar Sitinjak be sentenced to death.

Presiding Judge Anwar Zahri told the court that the light sentence had been handed down as the charge that the defendant was linked to a national drug trafficking network had not been proved.

In imposing the sentence, the judges also took into consideration the fact that Bakhtiar had served as a police officer for 25 years, Anwar added.

He said the defendant had been proven guilty of violating Article 59 (1c) of Law No. 5/1997 on psychotropic substances as he illegally consumed and sold shabu-shabu (crystal amphetamine).

"As a member of the National Police, the defendant should have been proactive in cracking down on drugs. But on the contrary, he acted as a drug dealer," the presiding judge said.

Bakhtiar was arrested by police on Dec. 18 last year at 7 a.m. at the Pirngadi General Hospital, Medan, while undergoing medical treatment.

The arrest followed the questioning of another drug suspect, Zulifkar alias Zulif, who was arrested in possession of three ounces of shabu-shabu.

Zulifkar confessed to police investigators that he had bought the drugs for Rp 20 million from Bakhtiar, who claimed to have obtained them from Ahwat, a resident of Jakarta.

The three ounces were part of around 1.5 kilograms that Bakhtiar had received from Ahwat, who remains at large, the police said.

After hearing the sentence, Bakhtiar said he was leaving it up to his lawyers to decide on an appeal.

Neril Abdi, one of the defendant's lawyers, told The Jakarta Post that his client would appeal against the verdict.

He claimed that Bakhtiar's conviction was not merited by the evidence. "The prosecution could not prove how my client obtained the shabu-shabu from Zulifkar," Neril claimed.

Meanwhile, state prosecutor Mardiana Sianturi said she was considering lodging an appeal against the lenient sentence imposed on the errant officer.