JAKARTA (The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network): A police officer has been named a suspect in the rape of a 15-year-old girl in Parigi Moutong regency in Central Sulawesi, following the arrest of two other suspects, who fled to Kalimantan, over the weekend.
The case is being handled by the Parigi Moutong Police with the assistance of the Central Sulawesi Police. Central Sulawesi Police chief Insp. Gen. Agus Nugroho said the officer with the rank of second inspector from Parigi Moutong Police was detained at the police detention centre in the provincial capital of Palu on Saturday (June 3) evening after being interrogated by investigators about the alleged rape.
The suspect has been identified only by his initials HDR. "Tonight we finished questioning a member of the police and we immediately named him a suspect," Agus said on Saturday as quoted by kompas.com.
The two fugitives, meanwhile, were arrested separately in North Kalimantan and East Kalimantan earlier on Saturday. They were to be brought to Palu on Sunday.
The police have so far named a total of 11 suspects, who allegedly raped the girl individually over the course of nine months.
They were all charged with violating Article 81 of the 2016 Child Protection Law on the rape of a minor by deception, which carries a maximum punishment of 15 years in prison. All but one of the suspects are in detention in Palu.
The police have issued an arrest warrant for the last remaining suspect, whose whereabouts remain unknown.
According to the victim’s account, as cited by the police, the 11 perpetrators raped her, in individual cases, multiple times in different places from April last year to January of this year, after offering her money, clothes and a cell phone, kompas.com reported.
The police did not disclose the names of all the suspects but said that they came from various backgrounds, such as an elementary school teacher, a village head, a farmer and a university student.
The parents of the victim, now 16 years old, not knowing of the alleged rapes, took the girl to a hospital in Parigi city for examination of a vaginal complaint, kompas.com reported. There, they found out about the alleged rapes and filed a report to the Parigi Moutong Police in March, according to various local media reports.
The handling of the case was not without controversy. Even though the Parigi Moutong Police have charged the suspects with statutory rape, the Central Sulawesi Police chief described the incident as "intercourse with a minor, and not rape" and that there was no use of force or threat.
Maidina Rahmawati of the Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR) said that intercourse with a child was in fact a statutory rape. She lambasted the police chief’s statement, saying it deviated from the principles of siding with the victim under the sexual violence law.
Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Minister Bintang Puspayoga also questioned the police chief’s statement, saying that when handling cases of sexual abuse against children, investigators must have the same perspective of prioritising protection for the victims.
“Our office has a training programme so [investigators] have the same understanding in handling cases [involving children],” she said.