By Haris Azhar*
As Indonesia was preparing the third set of executions under President Joko Widodo, I recalled a 2014 encounter with Freddy Budiman on Nusa Kambangan, which led me to believe that the executions have not been carried out to uphold justice but merely to boost popularity.
Freddy’s drug smuggling case showed just how flawed the legal system is, for reasons which I describe as follows.
During the 2014 presidential election campaign, I received an invitation from a church organization that is active in providing spiritual assistance to inmates in the Nusa Kambangan prison complex.
I had a chance to meet with a number of death-row inmates who were convicted of terrorism and those who were believed to be victims of miscarriages of justice.
I met among others, John Refra, also known as John Kei, and drug convicts on death row Freddy Budiman and Brazilian Rodrigo Gularte, who was executed in April 2015.
I thank Mr. Sitinjak, the prison chief warden at that time, for giving me an opportunity to talk to him and exchange ideas about his work. I think Mr. Sitinjak was very strict and disciplined in managing the prison.
Almost every day, Mr. Sitinjak ordered his staffers to confiscate cellular phones and weapons that were in the inmates’ possession. I witnessed prison guards seizing many cell phones and sharp weapons.
But instead of being appreciated for his hard work to build the integrity of the prison, including installing two security cameras to monitor Freddy around the clock, Mr. Sitinjak admitted to me that officials from the National Narcotics Agency (BNN), who often visited the prison, had asked him to remove the cameras.
I thought this was odd and I asked him why BNN would object to the cameras. Didn’t Freddy’s status as a drug lord require close monitoring? I then had my question answered by Freddy himself who told me his story.
According to the church member who took me to the prison, Freddy was eager to meet and talk directly with me. I, accompanied by two servants of the church and John Kei, chatted with Freddy for two hours.
This is what he told me.
“Mr. Haris, I’m not a person who is afraid to die. I am ready to be executed because of my crime, I know the risk of the crime I have committed. But I am also disappointed with the officials and law enforcers.”
“I am not a dealer. I am the operator of a large-scale drug smuggling network. I have a boss who is not from Indonesia. He is in China. When I want to smuggle drugs, I would arrange it, I called the police, BNN, Customs officials and those people who I called, would chip in and named their prices. Can you guess the actual price of the drugs I sell in Jakarta for around Rp200.000 – 300.000 in the market?” Freddy asked me.
I answered Rp50.000. Freddy immediately replied:
“Wrong. It costs only Rp5.000 straight out of the factory in China, so I was never afraid if some people quoted their prices to me. When I phoned a particular person, that person would chip in Rp10.000 per pill, another would offer Rp30.000 and I never refused. Do you know why Mr. Haris?”
“Because I could sell Rp200.000 per item, so if you simply give from the proceeds around Rp10.000 – 30.000 to each of people of certain institutions, it was no big deal. I only need Rp10 billion and the goods will arrive. From the sale profits, I could share tens of billions with some officials in certain institutions.”
Freddy said police often sold confiscated drugs themselves. “When I smuggled the stuff, I was arrested. My goods were confiscated. But from my informants, the confiscated goods were sold.
“So my boss (in China) asked: ‘You said that you already greased the palms of the police, how come you got arrested? And if you are captured, why are the goods available in the circulation. Who is playing the game? You or the police?’”
Freddy went on: “I know because every drug plant has its own characteristics such as a unique shape, color and taste. So if my goods are being sold, I know. And my networks discovered that.”
Freddy continued again. “And why have I been singled out? Where are those people? I calculated that over several years of smuggling drugs, I had given Rp450 billion to BNN and Rp90 billion to certain officials at the national police headquarters. I even drove the official car of a two-star army general, with the general sitting next to me from Medan to Jakarta with the car fully loaded with drugs. My trip was smooth and safe without any trouble.”
“I am concerned with such officials. When I was arrested, I was asked to confess and tell all about where and who the dealer was. I said, my investor was the son of a high-ranking official in Korea (Not sure if Freddy meant North or South Korea – Haris). I was ready to show where the factory was, and I went there with BNN officers (not sure if it was one or more officials – Haris). We went to China and we got to the front of the factory. Then I asked the BNN people: Now what?”
“In the end, they didn’t know [what to do], so we returned. I have always been cooperative with law enforcement officials. If [they] want to uncover, just do it. But they misused my being cooperative.”
“When they said I escaped, actually I did not escape. When I was in custody, I was approached by the police who offered me to escape. But I did not want to run away because I still could control my business from inside the prison. But I knew the police needed money, so I accepted the offer. But I told him I had no money. Then the police looked for about Rp1 billion loan out of the agreed price of Rp2 billion. Then I escaped. When I was already on the run, I paid the other one billion. But a few days later I was arrested again. I understand that I was arrested again because from the beginning I knew he was just going to blackmail me.”
Freddy also expressed that he was sorry for the ordinary people such as the drivers of trucks in which the drugs were loaded and could not accept the fact that they were the ones who are punished, instead of the high-profile actors who enjoyed protection.
I then asked Freddy where I could get [more of] this story? Why not just publicise this story? Freddy replied:
“I had already told my lawyer, if I want to publicise this, to whom? That is why it is important to you, Mr. Haris. So you can tell the story to the wider public, that I am ready to be executed, but I am concerned with the current state of law enforcement. Why don’t you read my plea, Mr. Haris, the story I am telling you now is all in the plea.”
So I looked for Freddy’s written plea. I could not find it on the Supreme Court website. I could only find the verdict on the website. The verdict however does not provide any information of what Freddy had told me about allegations of state, law enforcement officials involvement in the case.
We at KontraS then tried to look for Freddy’s lawyer’s contact, but interestingly, despite the abundance and wealth of information on the internet, we could not find any information that mentioned who Freddy’s lawyer was and his whereabouts. Eventually we failed to meet the lawyer through whom we hope to dig this information deeper, whether such information was included in Freddy’s dossier and ask further information about the progress of the case.
Note: Haris’ testimony made rounds on social media and messaging apps just before midnight on July 28, 2016. Freddy was executed shortly after midnight on July 29, 2016 along with Seck Osmane from Senegal and Michael Titus and Humphrey Jefferson Ejike from Nigeria.
Haris Azhar is the coordinator of The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras)