Tue, 23 Aug 1994

Military denies getting involved in Sembiring's killing

JAKARTA (JP): The military flatly denied reports that their personnel were involved in the controversial kidnap and murder of prominent ex-con Johny Sembiring.

Armed Forces (ABRI) Chief Gen. Feisal Tanjung admitted that the military has stepped up its current anti-crime campaign, but bluntly denied reports that servicemen were behind Thursday's incident.

"Don't trap me with your questions. It's you who said that," the four-star general said.

Antara reported yesterday that Feisal made the remarks in response to questions whether the anti-crime campaign was also aimed at eliminating Sembiring.

On Sunday, Jakarta military commander Maj. Gen. Hendropriyono also denied any speculation linking his personnel with Sembiring's murder.

"None of my personnel was involved in the case. Nevertheless, his (Sembiring's) death serves as a lesson to other gangsters," Hendro said. Hendro is the popular name of the two-star general.

Sembiring, 62, also known by his real name of John Farrel Sembiring, had been an underworld crime figure since the 1950s.

Educated in a Dutch colonialist-run school, Sembiring who is fluent in both English and Dutch, achieved prominence in the national crime world during the 1960s. He was imprisoned several times during this period.

In the mid 1980s, Sembiring left the crime world and took up work as a prominent debt collector and a part-time evangelist for inmates.

Sembiring was kidnapped along with his driver Tumiran, 28, by a group of seven unidentified men around 5 p.m. Thursday on Jl. Tanah Abang II, Central Jakarta. Sembiring lived in Kebun Nanas district, East Jakarta.

Tumiran was later released later that evening by his captors in Jonggol district, Bogor, while Sembiring was discovered dead on Friday in Cariu district, an area not far from Jonggol.

Tumiran had earlier stated that the kidnappers claimed to be servicemen, which prompted the press to link the military to the murder.

Tumiran claimed that Sembiring's BMW was struck three times from behind by a Toyota Kijang van packed with the group of toughs.

Tumiran got out of the car to settle the matter but the men in the van blamed him for the incident.

Seeing his driver exchanging harsh words with the men, Sembiring reportedly left his car to come to Tumiran's aid, but was soon dragged away at gunpoint.


Some newspapers reported that a uniformed serviceman witnessed the incident and came to the aid of Sembiring and Tumiran. But, the reports said he quickly backed off after the kidnappers told him that they were also servicemen, and brandished their firearms to drive the point home.

Meanwhile Lt. Col. Latief Rabar, a spokesman for City Police, told reporters yesterday that Tumiran never told police that the kidnappers were military members or that a serviceman observed the kidnapping.

"Based on Tumiran's reports to police, there were no military members involved in the case," said Latief.

Tumiran, Latief said, reported the kidnapping to city police headquarters at 12:15 a.m. Friday, 13 hours before Sembiring's body was discovered by Bogor police.

In contradiction of the spokesman's statement, a reliable source at city police headquarters confirmed newspaper reports that a member of the military witnessed the kidnapping.

The serviceman have been questioned about the incident, the source said.

The source also said the external post-mortem examination of Sembiring's body by the Bogor Red Cross hospital showed no signs of either shooting or torture.

"Only some light bruises on his chest," he said.

"The internal post-mortem, which should help reveal the cause of his death, has yet to be completed," the source said.


The source also said Sembiring's white BMW was recovered in Tambun district, Bekasi, at 7:45 p.m on Thursday.

In a related development, Hendardi, communications director of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), said yesterday that he believed that Sembiring's death was related to his profession as a debt collector.

YLBHI, Hendardi said, observed that debt collectors often resort to breaking the law in order to recover money from their debtors, a practice which the foundation strongly denounces.

But, Hendardi added, the foundation was also opposed to the use of unlawful ways of tackling debt-collecting services as was apparently displayed in the death of Sembiring.

However, Hendardi did not name any agency which was responsible in Sembiring's murder.

Some quarters speculated that Sembiring was killed by a party seeking revenge for his former crimes.

Sembiring was convicted for killing Air Force Lt. Col. Steven Adam in 1985. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison by the Bogor district court but the verdict was overruled by the Bandung high court.

Some other analysts believe he was murdered by rival debt collectors who were envious of his success, or by backers of the debtors he was handling.

Police were intensively questioning Tumiran and studying the list of debtors Sembiring had dealt with.

Tumiran, said during a round of interrogation at city police headquarters yesterday that the kidnap and murder of his employer occurred very fast.

"I'm still afraid," he said.

Sembiring was buried yesterday afternoon at the Pondok Kelapa cemetery. (jsk)