A manager of palm oil company in Pelalawan, Riau Province, was set free from allegation of allowing forest and land burnings inside the concession of PT Langgam Inti Hibrindo (LIH), a supplier of Wilmar Group and Sinar Mas.
Pelalawan Distric Court’s Judges presided by Ketua I Dewa Gede Budhy Dharma Asmara decided on Thursday evening (9 June) that Frans Katihokang, Operational Manager of PT LIH, was not found guilty in allegation of setting fires of 533 hectares in July 2015 as sued by Pelalawan Prosecutors Office.
Prosecutor Novika previously urged the court to penalize the defendant to two-year imprisonment and fine penalty amount to 1 billion rupiah or substitution of six-month imprisonment.
Judge I Dewa Gede urged the Prosecutor to discharge Katihokang from prison and restore his dignity and reputation as he “was not found guilty legally and convincingly in committing crime and release the defendant from any allegations,” Tempo.co reported.
PT LIH is also a suspect of forest/land fires case in 2013 for allegedly setting fires of 1,000 hectare area, but no prosecution occur. Made Ali of Riau Corruption Trial (RCT), an NGO who monitoring prosecution and legal process, said that Pelalawan District Court ruined its reputation by freeing the defendant. “It is a blatant sad news for millions casualties and victims of haze in Sumatra due to fires in 2015.”
Made Ali said they would file complaint to Judicial Court for two judges releasing the defendant of the LIH burning’s case. Their decision was against the enthusiasm of the Supremacy Court who is committed in against environmental destruction and deforestation, he added.
“We also question of the judges’ independence as Law Enforcers as they much enjoyed facilitates serviced by PT LIH during field inspection in April 2016 including transportation and lunch,” Made told EoF News.
RCT praised judge Ayu Amelia who uttered dissenting opinion during the final decision as “a brave judge” to protect environment and care for sufferings that hit people in Riau province. Judge Ayu Amelia told the court that Katihokang failed to control the burnings in the concession and was against article 99 point 1 of Law number 32 year 2009 on Protection and Management of Environment.
In December 2015, a district court in South Sumatra acquitted PT Bumi Mekar Hijau, an APP timber supplier, for charge of setting fires of 20,000 hectares in 2014 as judges said there was no any environmental damage caused by the fires.