An Indonesian boy was found guilty of stealing a pair of old, worn-out sandals worth about $3 from a police officer. He faced up to five years in prison for the petty crime -- the same sentence given to some rapists and drug dealers -- although, the boy was released into his parents custody.
The boy's arrest has become a symbol of the inequalities of Indonesia's justice system, and his release is a sign that public outrage and protests possibly coaxed leniency from a judge.
After his arrest, the 15-year-old student from Palu, Sulawesi was interrogated and beaten by police officers. According to The Jakarta Globe, the evidence used against the boy, whose name was not released due to his age, was inconsistent at best. No one witnessed the boy take the sandals and the pair confiscated from him were of the 'Eiger' brand, not the 'Andos' brand as the owner reported.
The police claim that the boy had stolen six other pairs of sandals in the past.
In protest of the boy's trial, people across Indonesia dumped thousands of pairs of flip-flops outside of police stations. On Wednesday, many gathered outside the courtroom and the National Commission on Child Protection created a pile of donated flip-slops
“The fact that people today are dumping dozens of sandals into police stations, in many places, not only in one city, shows that the Indonesian public are fed up with the police, Human Rights Watch coordinator Andreas Harsono told Voice of America. They are very angry. They see so much violence conducted by the police, injustice. And they see that the police are mostly corrupt.”
This action of solidarity by the public shows that they disagree with the criminalization of juveniles, that it goes against a sense of justice, Arist Merdeka Sirait, chairman of Indonesia's Child Protection Commission, told AFP.
This is only a case because the stolen flip-flops happened to belong to a police officer. That is arrogant and we hope it stops here.
The Indonesian police have continued to prove themselves to be a thuggish organization. In December, 65 people at a punk rock concert were detained without charge and had their mohawks shaved, piercings removed and were forced to enter a 10-day rehabilitation program.
There were also reports that police officers were connected to a beheading in Southern Sumatra and that other policemen shot and killed three people during a protest during Christmastime.
“They (the police) are acting more like the military. Seeing society members as enemies rather than as citizens that they should serve, Harsono said. There should be a lot more serious action toward the police, to reform the police other than only handing out the sandal… There should be concerted efforts to reform the police in Indonesia.
Two of the three officers who beat the boy for stealing the sandals has been reprimanded. One will be denied promotion for a year and the other will face a disciplinary tribunal, according to VOA.