Court Lets Off 14-Year-Old in $1 Theft Case

The Jakarta Globe

Central Jakarta District Court judges on Wednesday ruled to drop criminal charges against a 14-year-old boy accused of stealing a Rp 10,000 ($1.15) cellphone voucher, saying the investigation into the case was “defective.” 

The move came in the wake of criticisms against the police and prosecutors for bringing a minor to trial over a trivial offense. 

The boy, Deli Suhandi, had spent more than three weeks in an East Jakarta prison with hardened criminals before he was released following pressure from human rights groups and child welfare activists. 

Presiding judge Tjokorda Rai Suamba said the police had violated legal procedures during the investigation. 

“The defendant was not accompanied by a lawyer. Hence, the investigation is deemed to be defective,” Tjokorda said after issuing the preliminary ruling. 

Deli, a junior high student, said that he and two friends from school had only picked up the phone vouchers from the street after rioters destroyed several cellphone shops along Jalan Tanah Tinggi. 

Though investigators said they had a signed letter from Deli stating that he waived his right to a lawyer, the judge said the note should have been signed by the boy’s parents. 

Agam, one of the prosecutors, said on Wednesday that his team would file an appeal against the ruling, saying the police report clearly stated that Deli had refused to be assisted by a lawyer. 

“It is clear in the investigation report that the defendant signed a letter declining an attorney,” he said. “Therefore, we are going to file an appeal.” 

Defense lawyer Hendra Supriatna said if prosecutors failed to appeal within seven days, the case against Deli would be dropped. 

Arist Merdeka Sirait, chairman of the National Commission for Child Protection (Komnas Anak), criticized the Johar Baru Police for locking the boy up, and prosecutors for charging Deli, saying these were in violation of a 2009 joint ministerial decree on dealing with children in conflict with the law. 

“The prosecutor is silly if he wants to file an appeal,” Arist said. “He should have had rejected the case in the first place when the police filed the investigation report.” 

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

“But because there is no evidence and the trial is closed to the public, this case should have been dropped immediately,” the Komnas Anak chairman said. 

Dede Suhandi, Deli’s father, welcomed the court ruling on Wednesday and said he hoped his boy would not be arrested again. 

“I just don’t like the fact that my son has been labeled a criminal,” Dede said. “He has done nothing wrong. The only thing that I want is for my son to be accepted by society.”

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