Fri, 02 May 2003

Judges reject Sumanto's objections to indictment

Agus Maryono, The Jakarta Post, Purbalingga, Central Java

The panel of judges hearing the case of alleged cannibal Sumanto at the district court in Purbalingga, Central Java, rejected defense objections to the government's indictment.

After hearing arguments from the defendant's 13-member defense team, the judges unanimously accepted all the charges against the defendant contained in prosecutor Kasmin's indictment.

"The panel of judges rejects the defendant's objections to the charges and the trial is adjourned until next Thursday, at which time we will hear testimony from witnesses," Sumardiyatmo, who presides over the panel of judges, said on Thursday to end the court session, which was attended by thousands of spectators.

Sumanto, 31, has been charged with theft of valuable property and unearthing human remains without authorization, which carry a total maximum sentence of seven years imprisonment under the Criminal Code.

The defendant is alleged to have dug up the body of Rinah, an 80-year-old woman who died in January, cut it into several pieces and eaten some of the flesh.

Rahmadi, a resident of Pelumutan village, where the defendant allegedly committed his crimes, testified that he saw the defendant carrying Rinah's mutilated body inside a sack.

"I knew that Sumanto was carrying Rinah's body because it smelled very bad," he testified.

Nurcahyo, the spokesman for the defense team, said they objected to the indictment because Rinah's body could not be considered "valuable property", which Article 363 of the Criminal Code defines as something having economic value.

He conceded that their client committed the theft, "but what he was stealing was not precious goods like a car, gold or a bicycle. And that is why we asked the panel of judges to acquit the defendant of the charges and release him".

The next court session is scheduled for May 8, at which time judges are expected to hear testimony from several witnesses and experts, including a psychiatrist who has examined the defendant.

Sumanto shocked Indonesians last January when he admitted to having eaten at least three human corpses to gain supernatural powers.

He said that when eating human flesh, he cooked it, charred it, fried it and sometimes ate it raw. The cannibal also admitted to eating cats, dogs, rats and snakes.

He told the police he wanted to eat seven human bodies to gain supernatural powers.