Case Disclosed - The Truth Behind The JIS Cleaners Trial

When the allegations began in February, it was an accusation that many took as gospel. But upon our biggest assumptions are born our greatest fallacies. The ISS cleaners, working at JIS, were convicted on 22nd December of sexually molesting a 6 year old boy during school hours. However, it is the obstruction of due process that brings the validity of these claims into disrepute.

This is the story of the convicted, who have been caught up within a racket we have yet to fully understand, and shows them not as cleaners, but as human beings. 

An opinion piece submitted by Jimmy Thoriq

The six ISS cleaners accused of rape

The six ISS cleaners accused of rape

The U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia said in a statement, “The outcome of these cases and what it reveals about the rule of law in Indonesia will have a significant impact on Indonesia’s reputation abroad.”

What lead the Ambassador to make such a claim? Here are 3 reasons he might have felt the Indonesian law system had, in this instance, all the judicial merit of flipping a double headed coin:


1) No Medical Proof of Molestation

The most damning claim for their innocence came to light on the day of the verdict, at least publicly, in the Jakarta Globe. Professor John Kevin Baird, director of the Eijkman-Oxford Clinical Research Unit in Central Jakarta, was asked to review the clinical laboratory evidence of the boy's tests. He found that there was no medical proof of sodomy, and said that “they are almost certainly falsely accused.” I repeat, there is no medical evidence to prove that molestation ever took place. 

2) Confessions Through Torture

We must spare a thought for Pak Anzwar, who never made it to trial. Anzwar allegedly ‘committed suicide’ whilst in prison, supposedly drinking bleach in an Indonesian prison toilet - those notorious cathedrals of hygiene.

His body was found bloody and beaten (not a usual side affect of detergent consumption), and a police medical examination of the deceased was conducted. The conclusion has not been made available to the public nor the defense. Hypocritically, Anzwar’s death is not worthy of the same scrutiny.

Indeed, torture was a continuing theme for the male cleaners. They claim that their confessions were made under duress. Since day one of the trial, they have recanted their confessions. The court rejected their recantations, accepting them as valid and a police witness’s assertion that their confessions were not coerced. 

3) Opaque Evidence, Behind Closed Doors

Despite the defense’s claims saying that the boy had been coached and having false memories concocted through suggestive questioning, the judges believed the boy’s testimony. This is despite not providing information as to when or how many times the ‘multiple gang-rapes’ occurred. 

The entire trial, bar the verdict, was conducted behind closed doors.

On the day of the verdict, the cleaners were herded like cattle into a holding cell at the back of the court room. They seemed exhausted and terrified, cutting disorientated figures as they feared a conviction they knew in their hearts they didn’t deserve. 

The holding cells at the back of the courtroom

The holding cells at the back of the courtroom

A group of over fifty family members were also joined by mothers of the JIS community, who have been relentless in their endeavor to help the families of the accused, raising 80 million rupiah (used for supplies, transport etc.). They have never faltered in their willingness to provide hope and a voice to those who have neither.

It was Afrischa Setyani who was first to hear her sentence. Afrischa had been busying herself with making keychains, wallets and bracelets whilst in prison, sharing them out with her family, supporters and fellow prisoners.

She was briskly ushered into the courtroom. Paved with off white bathroom tiles, the high ceilinged room was a stifling oven for the packed congregation. 

The judge mumbled his sentencing in a monotone drone for the best part of an hour. Then suddenly, the court exploded. 7 years and an unpayable 100 million rupiah fine. Her family had no time for private grief as a cameraman probed inches away for the satisfaction of 24 hour rolling news. 

Glassy eyes were in abundance as the infectious feeling of sorrow spread. After months of the unknown, it had finally become real

Awam Amin was the next to face judgement. Awam, along with his male counterparts, had been making delightful trinkets out of paper whilst in jail. 

One of their creations

One of their creations

He was to experience something that no human being should have to endure on their day of reckoning.

The nasty spectacle came from the abhorrent behaviour of the prosecution team. While the judge spent 45 minutes reading out his sentence, the male prosecutors could be seen laughing and joking, like naughty school boys at the back of an assembly. Far from hiding in the cheap seats however, they were center stage in the most publicised trial of the year, deciding the fate of their fellow man.

Awam received 8 years and a 100 million rupiah fine. 

Back in the holding pen, it was almost too much for the others to bear as the trend was becoming apparent. One of the cleaners was on the verge of fainting, while family members wailed their weary cries, fed-up with their painful and baseless separation.

Hovering in the doorway of his cell, Agun Iskandar defiantly donned his Taqiyah and marched to his destiny. As tragic fate would have it, Agun’s wife was 7 months pregnant when he was arrested. He has never had longer than the brief walk to trial to hold his child. 

Again, his sentence was 8 years and the arbitrary 100 million rupiah family burden.

As he was ushered back to his bleak future, his wife hurled a vociferous tirade upon his captors - a diatribe that only a mother fearing for her family can deliver. She held her crying daughter, shedding tears she may only fully understand in the years to come. It serves as a brutal illustration of the families these bread winners leave behind. 

Syahrial's wife playing with their 2 year old son

Syahrial's wife playing with their 2 year old son

The same pattern of sentencing was to continue for Pak Syahrial and Zainal Abidin. Syahrial worked for ISS to support his wife and 2-year-old son. Zainal, the youngest on trial at 20 years of age, envisaged broader horizons than cleaning, working a second job as an ojek driver to pay for college. His sister's four sons, who he supported, have now had to stop going to school since his incarceration.

These people have found themselves caught up in a devastating situation where their guilt cannot be proved, but can be sentenced. The forces and motives at work remain pure speculation, but there is an overwhelming stench of wrongdoing surrounding this case. 

We may never know the song that disrupted due process, but it’s clear it plays to the tune of USD $125 million (approx. 1,500,000,000,000 rupiah). 

Many associated with Indonesia have praised the onset of the Jokowi era as sign of a positive change, but it’s going to take a lot more than good intentions to reverse such deeply ingrained fraudulence. Corruption is in the DNA of Indonesia’s State institutions, and was on glaring view within the legal apparatus on Monday. 

This was seen as the precursor of the even more publicised trial of Neil Bantleman and Ferdinand Tijong.

WIth their ongoing trial receiving global scrutiny, the cleaners set for an appeal, and the Ambassador calling for further investigation, one thing is for certain - this case is far from settled. 


Article submitted by Jimmy Thoriq

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