JAKARTA, INDONESIA — One of Indonesia’s most senior police officers was sentenced to death on Monday over the murder of his bodyguard.

Ferdy Sambo, a two-star general and former head of internal affairs for the national police, was named as a suspect after his bodyguard was found dead at Sambo’s home in July, in a killing police were initially alleged to have covered up.

Sambo was accused of ordering a subordinate to shoot 27-year-old Brigadier Nofriansyah Yosua Hutabarat, and then firing a bullet into the wounded victim himself.

He was arrested in August and discharged from the force in September, before a months-long trial that grabbed national headlines and shone a light on a pervading sense of police impunity in the archipelago nation.

“[The court is] declaring the defendant Ferdy Sambo to be convincingly and legally guilty of committing the crime of premeditated murder… and sentencing the defendant to death,” presiding judge Wahyu Iman Santoso told the court.

Sambo has a week to appeal the verdict.

Hutabarat’s mother sat in the Jakarta court holding his picture as the judge addressed Sambo, who attended in person.

There were yelps as the verdict was read, from a stunned public who did not expect the maximum sentence. As Sambo was ushered out of the courtroom, still in custody, he was swamped by media.

When Hutabarat’s death came to light, police initially said another member of the security detail had killed him, having caught him sexually assaulting Sambo’s wife.

But Sambo and his wife were arrested weeks later.

Police did not reveal the killing for days and said surveillance cameras were not working when Hutabarat was killed. The judge said CCTV footage was deleted by a Sambo subordinate.

Sambo’s wife, Putri Candrawathi, was also sentenced on Monday to 20 years in prison, much higher than the eight-year term prosecutors were seeking.

Activists said Sambo’s role as a law enforcer was likely the motivation behind the court handing down the maximum sentence.

“This verdict means the law enforcers believed Ferdy Sambo was the mastermind behind this murder,” Ardi Manto Saputra, deputy director of human rights group Imparsial, told AFP.

“He has tainted the reputation of law enforcement and the government’s dignity.”


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