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Indonesia arrests 2 policemen suspected in acid attack

December 27, 2019 GMT

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian authorities said Friday they have arrested two elite police officers suspected in an acid attack on a senior anti-corruption investigator nearly three years ago.

Novel Baswedan, a leading investigator at the Corruption Eradication Commission, known by its Indonesian abbreviation KPK, was almost blinded when two men attacked him with acid near a mosque as he left dawn prayers in April 2017.

The attack drew nationwide condemnation in Indonesia, which suffers from endemic corruption. KPK, one of the few effective institutions in the nation of more than 260 million people, is frequently under legislative attack by lawmakers who want to reduce its powers.

National Police chief of detectives Listyo Sigit Prabowo said two members of an elite police mobile brigade were arrested late Thursday in Depok city on the outskirts of the capital, Jakarta.

He declined to provide more details, saying police were still interrogating the suspects, identified only by their initials, RM and RB.

“This is just a preliminary interrogation and we cannot provide more details before our questioning process is completed,” National Police spokesman Argo Yuwono said.

He said the arrests followed a long investigation that included medical, forensic and technical teams and involved the questioning of 73 witnesses.

Baswedan was leading the investigation of a case in which 80 people, mostly officials and legislators, and several companies allegedly used the introduction of a $440 million electronic identity card system in 2011 and 2012 to steal more than a third of the funds.

Senior Golkar party politician and former Speaker of Parliament Setya Novanto was sentenced in April last year to 15 years in prison for coordinating the $170 million theft of public money.

Baswedan also investigated police corruption.

After the attack, he underwent months of medical treatment in Singapore for his damaged eyes.

Baswedan has criticized the police investigation because no one had been arrested when he returned to work last year, 16 months after the attack.

The attack, which underlines the country’s challenges in fighting graft, threatened the credibility of President Joko Widodo, who recently won a second term after campaigning for clean governance.

Widodo set up a fact-finding team to solve the case ahead of the April election after a string of police investigations were unable to identify the attackers.

Firli Bahuri, the KPK chief, expressed his appreciation to police on Friday for the investigation.

“This is the long-awaited answer for all Indonesian people,” Bahuri said.