Man dies during detention at Empat Lawang, South Sumatra with signs of torture – Police allegedly asked key witness to lie

On 22 June 2022, 28-years old Ari Putra died in the custody of the Empat Lawang Resort Police, South Sumatra Province, a few hours after being arrested. Ari Putra was arrested with his friend Bayu Anggara on Tuesday night, 21 June 2022, at around 10 pm. Based on the results of the post-mortem, Ari was declared dead because he suffered bruises on the back of the head and face and swollen right cheekbone. Police said that Ari Putra died because fellow prisoners mistreated him. However, the family suspects the involvement of the Empat Lawang police officer. 

On 1 July 2022, AKP M Tohirin, Head of the Criminal Investigation Unit of Empat Lawang Police, said that the two men were involved in an attempted rape case with a 19-year-old victim. However, Ari’s father, Irsan, said that he did not know what his son was accused of doing because the family had never received an arrest warrant for Ari from the Empat Lawang Police. 

As for Bayu Anggara, the police were forced to release him after a demonstration by the community, who questioned his arrest without valid papers. Bayu Anggara then testified that it was the police who tortured them and that the Head of Criminal Investigation had asked him to say it was not the police but fellow detainees who killed Ari Putra. 

Police Version

Kapolres Empat Lawang AKBP Patria Yuda Rahadian, SIK MIK, on Monday night, denied the family’s allegation that the police tortured Ari Putra. The police chief said the victim died because other detainees mistreated him. The police arrested Ari and Bayu on the night of 21 June 2022. Ari and Bayu were accused of being involved in an attempted rape case in the Pendopo District area. Both were put in one cell with three other prisoners. So that night, there were five detainees in the cell. The following day, one prisoner, Ari Putra, was found dead.

The Police Chief claimed to have explained the facts to the family on 23 June 2022, when the family came to the Police Headquarters looking for explanations. But the family accepted the chief’s explanation and went home. The chief also said that the police empathised, condoled, and provided rice compensation.

AKP M Tohirin, Head of the Criminal Investigation Unit of Empat Lawang Police, said that the investigation concluded that the perpetrators were three prisoners who are suspected drug offenders. They are Joni (23), Feriansah (20) and Dira Aliansyah (25). The three perpetrators were motivated to persecute the victim because the victim was a new prisoner. The three suspects are fellow prisoners involved in a dispute with the victim that resulted in a fight. Tohirin said the victim, Ari suffered several bruises on his face and body. Officers who learned of the incident managed to break it up and take Ari to the hospital, but it vwas too late.

Head of South Sumatra Police Public Relations, Kombes Pol Supariadi, emphasised that the detainee was not mistreated by members of the police but by fellow detainees in the cell. He said it was still under further investigation. In addition, South Sumatra Police will also impose sanctions on prisoner guard officers if proven negligent in duty when the incident occurred.

Family and eyewitnesses 

Bayu Anggara, Ari Putra’s friend who was arrested with him, said they were arrested at night in two cars and beaten by police officers at Empat Lawang Police Station. He was arrested and put into a vehicle separately from Ari Putra. The night of the incident, he and Ari were on their way to sell their motorcycle when they were suddenly arrested. They were taken to Empat Lawang Police Station, placed in separate rooms, and subjected to severe beatings by police officers. He said, “My hair was burned, my chest was bruised, my mouth was bleeding, and even my legs were beaten with a long barrel. I was hit by a police officer and saw Ari also being hit.” 

He and Ari were then placed in the same room in a state of pain. At that time, he saw Ari in a state of unconsciousness. “At that time, the Head of the Criminal Investigation Unit of Empat Lawang Police told me that he could help me to free, but I had to help him to say that detainees, not police officers, beat my friend Ari,” Bayu claims that he still clearly remembers that unscrupulous police officers tortured him and Ari Putra and that no detainees tortured them. “We were beaten by about six people, while about five beat Ari.”

Davit Sanaki, the legal counsel of Ari’s family, said that Bayu Anggara left the Empat Lawan police station because the community protested on his behalf because he was arrested without an arrest warrant.

The family reports the case to the police

The family reported the case to the South Sumatra Police on 29 June 2022. The family’s attorney said there was enough evidence and witnesses to prove that Ari’s death was allegedly due to murder by police officers of the Empat Lawang Police Station. There are 11 people reported so far.

The family also officially reported this case to the South Sumatra Regional Police on 30 June 2022. Based on the post-mortem results of the hospital in Empat Lawang received by the victim’s family, it was found that Ari had blunt force injuries and burns to the ears, head, chest and legs. The report also included testimony from a witness, Bayu Anggara.

It is known that the South Sumatra Police have followed up on the case of the detainee’s death at the Empat Lawang Police Station by deploying the Propam Bid team to assess the situation on 28 June 2022.

Until now, there has been no news about the legal process against the police officers reported by the family, even though the evidence is solid. If generally, in cases of torture, only rely on police witnesses whose veracity is doubtful.

Critical points: 

  • There are inconsistencies in police statements. The police Chief said Ari Putra died because he was mistreated by fellow prisoners and was found dead in the morning. But the Criminal Investigation Unit version noted that the officers had broken up the fight, and Ari Putra went to the hospital;
  • The police state that Ari was not killed by police but by other prisoners. But at the same time, the police also said the case was still under further investigation. How did they conclude who killed him if the case is still under investigation?
  • The police’s claim that the detainee died because fellow detainees beat him is contradicted by a crucial witness statement;
  • There is undue delay in the case even though solid evidence shows there were signs of violence.

Detailed Case Data
name of the location: Empat Lawang Polres (-3.6351742899528716, 103.07736861681943)
administrative region: Indonesia, South Sumatra Province, Empat Lawan Regency, Tebing Tinggi District
total number of victims: two
period of incident: 22.06.2022
perpetrator: police
perpetrator details: unknown
Issues: torture, ill-treatment, extra-judicial killings, arbitrary detention
Sources: https://lampung.antaranews.com/berita/638289/tahanan-tewas-di-polres-empat-lawang-keluarga-melapor-ke-propam-polda-sumsel, https://www.sumsel24.com/hukum-dan-kriminal/pr-3283784604/ari-putra-tewas-di-tahanan-empat-anggota-polres-empat-lawang-diperiksa-polda-sumsel?page=2, https://www.sumsel24.com/hukum-dan-kriminal/pr-3283784490/saksi-ungkap-kronologi-kematian-ari-putra-yang-tewas-di-sel-tahanan-polres-empat-lawang, https://sumsel.tribunnews.com/2022/07/01/fakta-ari-putra-tahanan-tewas-di-empat-empat-lawang-ayah-1-anak-kerja-gembala-kambing Further HRM News:

NumberName, DetailsGenderAgeGroup AffiliationViolations
1Ari Putramale28unknownarbitrary detention, torture, execution
1Bayu Anggaramale23unknownarbitrary arrest, torture