Home News Indonesian court acquits former official accused of enslaving drug addicts

Indonesian court acquits former official accused of enslaving drug addicts

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A former official has been charged Imprisonment and enslavement of 656 people A man who ran an illegal operation under the guise of drug rehabilitation at an Indonesian estate has been acquitted of human trafficking charges, heightening concerns about rampant endemic corruption in the country.

A three-judge panel on Monday found former official Tebit Lenkana Pelankin not guilty, dealing a blow to those seeking justice and compensation for their imprisonment, abuse and forced labor.

“We are very sad that modern slavery still exists in Indonesia, an independent country for decades, and it happened in the home of a public official who has a duty to protect citizens,” said Anies Hidaya, a member of Indonesia’s Human Rights Commission.

The trial was held in Lanka Regency, North Sumatra, which is about the size of a district. Mr. Pelankin Ankin has long served as the regency chief, and some of his relatives also hold important positions of power.

After the judge read out the verdict, Mr Perangin-angin thanked them and Kneel before themhitting the floor with his head.

Prosecutors sought a 14-year prison sentence and $140,000 in damages, and they said they would appeal.

The case highlights how widespread corruption is at the local level in Indonesia, where governors, regents and mayors of major cities are often referred to as “little kings”.

The cages were discovered in January 2022 when anti-corruption investigators searching for Mr. Perankin-Ankin in another bribery case stumbled upon 65 men held captive on his estate. In that case, he was convicted of bribery, sent to prison and stripped of his public office.

While regent, Mr. Perankin started a drug rehabilitation program that promised free treatment. Some parents turned their sons in to the school in the hope that the program would help them break their addiction.

But the victims say they never received drug treatment. Instead, they say they were locked up, beaten, tortured and forced to work on the former regent’s palm plantations, palm oil factories and homes. Some victims say they were sexually abused by the men who guarded them.

Police investigations found that 656 men and teenagers were imprisoned over a 10-year period. Most were held for about 18 months. The Human Rights Commission found that six prisoners died, at least three of them tortured to death.

Indonesia’s witness and victim protection agency estimates that Perankin-Ankin’s company earned $12 million from the hostages’ unpaid labor.

“This decision does not bring justice to the alleged victims, which is their right,” said Antonius Wibowo, vice president of the agency, which has provided assistance to many of the victims and concealed their identities.

The cage keepers at Mr. Pelenkin-Ankin’s estate included off-duty soldiers and police officers, as well as members of a youth group known for extortion and led by Mr. Pelenkin-Ankin. Dozens of assailants named by victims have never been prosecuted. Of those who have faced charges, the longest sentence has been three years.

Deva Lenkana Pelankin, the son of the former regent, was released after serving half of a 19-month prison sentence for torturing a man to death.

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