A14-year-old boy has been in jail for 24 days so far, on suspicion of having tried to steal a Rp 10,000 ($1.15) phone card he picked up off the street.
The boy’s distraught father can’t comprehend how his son ended up in the Pondok Bambu Penitentiary, detained along with hardened criminals, for such a petty matter.
Dede Suhandi’s son Deli, an eighth-grade student at the Al-Jihad Junior High School in Central Jakarta, was moved to Pondok Bambu on March 15, four days after being arrested by Johor Baru Police.
According to police reports, Deli and his friends Rahmat Wibowo and Muhamad Luki were taking cover near a damaged phone-card stall during a riot in their neighborhood. After the riot had ended, the boys were picking up phone cards scattered on the street when somebody shouted at them, accusing them of stealing. The boys threw away the phone cards and ran away as an angry mob chased them. Luki got caught. The next day police arrested Rahmat and Deli at their respective homes.
The police later released Luki and Rahmat, but continued to detain Deli, who was charged with stealing, under a code carrying a maximum of 7 years’ jail. After being detained in the precinct for four days, Deli was transferred to the Pondok Bambu Penitentiary.
“Although I just work as an ojek [motorcycle taxi] driver, I’ve always told my children that they must not steal,” Dede said.
“I’m sure my son is a victim of injustice.
“I do not understand the law and I do not understand why the police officer from Johan Baru Resort Police has moved my son to the Pondok Bambu jail and treated him as a bad person, like a terrorist, while this case has not yet been brought to the prosecutors,” he said.
Dede said he asked police officers handling the case to release Deli so he can take the national exam next week, but his request was rejected. “Deli is in junior high school and he has the right to finish his schooling. But it appears the police officer has made things difficult for us. I guess it is because we are poor people.”
Hendra Supriayan, a lawyer from the Legal Aid and Human Rights Association [PBHI] handling Deli’s case, questioned the logic behind charging the teenager under the Criminal Code.
“Instead of bringing Deli’s case to the court, according to the 2009 joint decree of the six government institutions on handling cases of children who violate the law, this kind of case can be solved by being discussed among the witness, victim and the suspect,” Hendra said.
“Therefore, we urge the National Police to instruct the chief of the Johar Baru Resort Police to release or suspend Deli’s detention so he can continue his study.” he said.