Boy on Trial for Phone-Voucher Theft As Defense Rails Against ‘Trivial’ Case

The Jakarta Globe

A 14-year-old student accused of stealing a Rp 10,000 ($1.15) cellphone voucher went on trial on Thursday, even as defense lawyers insisted such a minor dispute should have been settled out of court.

The case of Deli Suhandi made headlines earlier this month after it was revealed he had been languishing for weeks at the Pondok Bambu Penitentiary along with hardened criminals for a petty offense.

He was released from prison a day after reports of his situation came out, but charges against him had not been dropped.

Agam, a prosecutor at the Central Jakarta District Court, said after Thursday’s closed-door hearing that Deli could face up to seven years in prison. Under the law, trials for juveniles are required to be closed to the public.

Deli was arrested along with two school friends, Muhamad Luki and Rahmat Wibowo, after witnesses reported them stealing phone cards from a shop after a riot along Jalan Tanah Tinggi on March 10. Luki and Rahmat were released from police custody later in the day.

Defense lawyer Hendra Supriatna said police did not have a warrant to arrest Deli at the time. He also said the boy was not accompanied by a lawyer during his interrogation.

“The indictment is too vague and there are some violations [by police],” he said. “Rahmat and Muhamad were [subjected to] intimidation during questioning. The police failed to show a warrant for Deli’s arrest.”

Agam insisted there was a lawyer present during the child’s interrogation.

Hendra added that prosecutors and the Johar Baru district police “neglected” a 2009 joint ministerial decree on dealing with children in conflict with the law by throwing Deli in jail.

“This kind of a case can be solved by discussions among the witnesses, the victim and the suspect,” he said.

Hendra said Deli’s case was a wake-up call for the government to properly enforce the decree and “prevent other children from being tried for trivial cases.”

He added: “If this kind of case can happen in Jakarta, where the access to information is easy, what will happen in small and remote provinces?”

The trial was adjourned until May 5. Deli’s lawyers are expected to present their preliminary defense, while the prosecution will reportedly call on witnesses to testify.

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