Sat, 27 Sep 2003

Three cops detained over Sumbawa riot

Luh Putu, Trisna Wahyuni and Damar Harsanto, The Jakarta Post, Mataram/Jakarta

Three police officers have been detained in connection with the death of a student that led to a riot on Thursday in Sumbawa Besar regency, West Nusa Tenggara, National Police chief Gen. Da'i Bachtiar said on Friday.

The three local police officers have been charged with causing the death of Mustakim, 22, a Samawa University student.

"The police have identified three officers who were in charge of Mustakim while he was in police custody, and they have been named suspects," Da'i told reporters after attending Friday prayers at National Police Headquarters, South Jakarta.

Mustakim's death triggered a riot in Sumbawa Besar that led to the death of a protester, Gathan, while 11 others sustained injuries in the violence.

West Nusa Tenggara Police chief Brig. Gen. Sutomo Tjokro Atmodjo said the three officers, who are all ranked second brigadier, have been identified only by their initials: SU, NV and A.M.

Sutomo said the three were arrested after they were found guilty of "violating police procedures", which caused the death of Mustakim, but did not elaborate.

He said the decision was taken after an investigation by the police's internal affairs unit, which questioned 15 police officers and three detainees in connection with the incident.

The doctor who had conducted an autopsy on Mustakim's body concluded that the student had died of a blood clot caused by a blow to his head.

Sutomo said they were not yet certain whether the blood clot was a result of beatings suffered at the hands of the police, or of injuries Mustakim sustained in a motorcycle accident on Monday, when he hit another motorcyclist, Akhirkan.

According to Sutomo, Mustakim fell, unconscious, from his motorcycle and was admitted to a nearby hospital by a resident, Burhan Salengke, who lived near the site of the accident.

Upon gaining consciousness at hospital, Mustakim became aggressive and psychologically unstable, prompting hospital staff to call the police.

Three police officers arrived to take Mustakim to Sumbawa Besar police station, but shortly afterwards, he was returned by the same officers to the hospital.

It was discovered later that Mustakim was already dead by then, said Sutomo.

Upon finding out that the Mustakim had died while in police custody, local residents and students stormed Sumbawa Besar police station on Thursday and demanded justice.

The protest turned violent after a police officer declared that Mustakim had died of a drug overdose, infuriating local residents who believed that Mustakim was tortured to death by the police.

The protesters allegedly broke through a police cordon during the protest, prompting the police to shoot at them.

Sutomo stressed that the police did not commit any procedural violations in handling Thursday's riot.

The incidents have led to the dismissals of Sumbawa Besar Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Bambang Suharno and his deputy Comr. Taufik Wijaya. The two were transferred to the West Nusa Tenggara Police Headquarters.

"The step was taken to calm down the residents of Sumbawa Besar," said Sutomo.