TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - More than two years have passed, and the acid attack on Novel Baswedan remains unsolved. The joint fact-finding team formed by National Police Chief Gen. Tito Karnavian last January has also drawn a blank in its bid to identify the perpetrators of the April 2017 attack. After a six-months-long probe, the 65 member-team; consisting of 52 police officers, six Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) officials and seven non-police experts - only came up with several recommendations, among others, to set up a technical team to delve further into the case to identify the three assailants.
Novel, 42, said he was not surprised by the result. From the beginning, the KPK investigator had little faith in the team formed on the recommendation of the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM), “I’ve said many times that I did not pin my hopes on this team,” he told Tempo last week.
The acid burned 90 percent of the cornea of Novel’s left eye and damaged some corneal nerves. He has undergone four eye operations in Singapore including a cornea transplant to restore vision and continues to receive periodic check-ups and treatments there. The visual impairment in the right eye is slowly improving.
The condition causes the father of five to bring objects close to his right eye to be able to see or read. Like when he wanted to read a cell phone message. Novel must draw the phone closer to his right eye. Also, he must always carry eye drops to improve vision.
In between the check-ups in Singapore last Wednesday, Novel answered Tempo’s questions over the phone. In the interview with Anton Aprianto and Linda Trianita that went on for almost two hours, Novel also explained about the ‘red book’ and his meetings with several police generals prior to the attack. The red book he referred to is the book bound in red cover containing the recordings of fund flow from businessman Basuki Hariman to several state officials in the beef import case. The KPK seized the book during the search on Basuki’s office in January 2017.
What do you think of the findings by the joint fact-finding team formed by the National Police chief?
Since the beginning of the establishment of the team, I said many times that I did not pin my hopes on it.
The team was formed as a follow up on the recommendation of the Komnas HAM which, among other things, stated that there was an abuse of process during the examination and investigation. It means that the investigators had committed abuse during the process. Eighty percent of the members in that team are the people who committed the abuse. Then how can I trust them?
Were you satisfied with the Komnas HAM’s recommendations?
The Komnas HAM was reasonable. They had the guts to say that there was the abuse of process and actually that was exactly what I reported previously. It means they validated my report. Certainly, I hoped more from the Komnas HAM, however, I heard that they received threats.
The joint team meant by the Komnas HAM was an independent one, not the one assembled by the Police chief?
Correct. I believe it should be so. But according to the Police chief, it is a joint team and it has KPK officials and experts although the KPK officials in the team were never active in the case. It doesn’t mean they didn’t want to but for some unknown reasons, they could not contribute (to the investigation).
You’ve always said you want the President to set up the team.
Right, because how can I trust that expert team if it is made up of the Police chief’s expert staff, the (police) affiliated special staff? In my opinion, the team is not independent.
How many times were you questioned by the team?
They asked for my statement once. Previously, I was summoned but I asked to postpone the meeting because at the time (I) was scheduled to conduct an investigation or to search for witnesses abroad.
Do you still remember when?
On June 20 at 10am. I gave the statement to the joint or expert team at the KPK office. A legal team and the KPK leaders were also present when I gave my testimony and answered the questions.
What did they ask?
Most of the points already explained in my statement given on August 15, 2017 (in Singapore). More or less the same.
I forgot the details. Just asking or confirming the information surrounding the incident.
We got information that in the meeting between the expert team, which is also part of the fact-finding team, and the KPK leaders, a statement was made to the effect that the attack was allegedly carried out by the police and it was related to the red book.
Yes, a member of the expert team said during the meeting that the attack was carried out by police officers in relation to the red book, but I didn’t get the facts straight. That’s why I was enthusiastic when they asked for my testimony on June 20 because I thought they would give me new information, but apparently, it disappeared.
Some team members said you were not very cooperative during the interrogation.
I don’t understand why so or what indicator they used. Since the day I was attacked, I’ve always given all the information I have. When I was in Singapore, I answered all the questions from the investigators. When I was discharged from the hospital for the first time, I informed my readiness to give testimony. Sometime later, I felt the need to tell the media of my conviction that the case would never be solved. As far as I remember, two weeks after I was discharged from the hospital, during my outpatient treatment in Singapore on August 15, 2017, I gave a testimony at the Indonesian embassy in Singapore which was recorded in a nine-page report. So, the statement that I was uncooperative is absurd.
We also got information that during the questioning, there was a question about a general’s name. What’s the story?
It was mentioned that there was a threat against a KPK employee by Antam Novambar (now the deputy chief of the national police’s criminal investigation unit). But it was related to another case, not mine. That was the story. Actually, I had asked the joint team to investigate other KPK cases. They didn’t want to. I said they were not consistent, they asked about the issue but didn’t want to investigate it. Then what’s the point of asking the question?
(The terror threat in question was experienced by Director of Investigation Comsr. Endang Tarsa in February 2015, when Antam asked Endang to testify as a witness at the pre-trial hearing challenging the naming of Budi Gunawan as a graft suspect by the KPK. They met at a McDonald restaurant in Ciledug, Banten, and Endang was asked to testify that the establishment of the then Police chief candidate as suspect, who was also endorsed by the House of Representatives, was pushed forward by KPK Chief Abraham Samad and his deputy, Bambang Widjojanto. Antam was said to have coerced Endang into testifying. Antam denied this when asked for confirmation. “There was no threat. We even shook hands and hugged,” he said.
Read the full interview in Tempo English Magazine