Indonesia's special forces soldiers convicted

Indonesia's special forces soldiers convicted
(From right) Ucok Tigor Simbolon, Sugeng Sumaryanto and Kodik were part of a team that stormed a prison in March to avenge the killing of a colleague.

INDONESIA - A member of Indonesia's elite commando unit who led the brazen storming of a prison and shot four inmates to death in an act of revenge was sentenced on Thursday to 11 years in jail and expelled from service by a military court in Yogyakarta.

Prosecutors had sought a 12-year sentence for Second Sergeant Ucok Tigor Simbolon, a member of the Army Special Forces Command (Kopassus), for premeditated murder and insubordination.

Two other Kopassus members were sacked and given jail terms: 2nd Sgt Sugeng Sumaryanto got eight years and First Corporal Kodik six years - two years short of prosecutors' demands.

All three men are appealing.

"They were honourable in owning up to their crimes," said the presiding judge, Lieutenant-Colonel Joko Sasmito, who read from a 449-page verdict. "But their actions took four lives and caused severe grief to victims' families, as well as trauma to the warden and other inmates. They have tarnished the military's good name," he added.

The soldiers' admission of guilt and the ensuing trial, which was open to the public, were seen as indications of the military's commitment to dealing with offences within its ranks.

On March 22, the soldiers drove two hours from a Kopassus forward base to Cebongan prison to avenge the killing of a colleague, Sergeant Heru Santoso, who was stabbed to death by four gangsters while on duty at a nightspot in Yogyakarta.

At Cebongan, one soldier brandished a grenade at a guard as others forced their way in. Ucok shot their targets while others destroyed closed-circuit TV cameras before fleeing.

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