Indonesian elite soldiers jailed over prison murders
Three members of Indonesia's special forces -- Ucok Tigor Simbolon (2nd right), Second Sergeant Sugeng Sumaryanto (3rd right) and First Corporal Kodik -- arrive at a court room during their trial in Bantul, on June 20, 2013. An Indonesian military tribunal has jailed eight special forces soldiers for involvement in a plot to storm a prison and shoot dead four inmates in a revenge killing.
The soldiers broke into Cebongan prison near Yogyakarta on the main island of Java in March to take revenge on the prisoners, who were in custody accused of murdering their superior officer in a nightclub brawl.
The group's three ringleaders were found guilty of pre-meditated murder, with the soldier who pulled the trigger sentenced to 11 years.
The revenge killings sparked a public outcry and evoked dark memories of the three-decade dictatorship of Suharto who stepped down in 1998, when the army often acted with impunity.
But the case also exposed deep divisions in the young democracy, with some supporting the soldiers for acting decisively against criminals, saying it was a stark contrast to the weak civilian courts and police.
As the members of the Kopassus unit, notorious during Suharto's rule for human rights abuses, waited to learn their fate, scores of supporters in paramilitary uniforms rallied outside the court in Yogyakarta.
A three-judge panel found Second Sergeant Ucok Tigor Simbolon -- the soldier who fired the fatal shots -- guilty of premeditated murder and sentenced him to 11 years. Prosecutors had recommended 12 years.
The two other ringleaders Second Sergeant Sugeng Sumarya and First Corporal Kodik, who stood next to him as he killed the prisoners, were sentenced to eight years and six years respectively.
The five others were found guilty of assisting pre-meditated murder after storming the prison complex and destroying CCTV footage inside the jail.
The five, who were tried separately to the ringleaders, were each sentenced to one year and nine months in jail.
"The defendants' actions cost the lives of four people, caused grief to the victims' families and traumatised many people, including the prisoners," chief judge Lieutenant Colonel Joko Sasmito told the court.
Indonesian Human Rights Monitor executive director, Poengky Indarti, criticised the sentences as too light and said the case should have been tried by a civilian court, where they would likely have received harsher punishments.
Pre-meditated murder can carry the death penalty.
"The military tribunal is a nest of impunity," she said. "We must revise current laws so military personnel can be tried in civilian courts."
The three ringleaders were also discharged from the army. Their lawyers immediately announced they would appeal the sentences.
Another four men, accused of minor roles in the plot such as failing to report it to superiors, are due to be sentenced Friday.
The trial opened in June and has been controversial, with supporters regularly staging protests outside the court and witnesses claiming they were intimidated.
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