Police Release Grandmother Accused of Stealing Teakwood
Jakarta. A 63-year-old woman, who was arrested three months ago on suspicion that she had taken wood from a teak plantation managed by state-owned forestry firm Perhutani, was released from an East Java jail on Monday following a public outcry.
Asyani was sent into a police detention center in the East Java district of Situbondo on Dec. 15, after Perhutani reported her to police for the alleged theft.
The company reportedly noticed that 38 wooden beams had disappeared from its plantation, and that the items were found at Asyani’s house in Secangan village in Jatibanteng subdistrict, not far from the plantation.
The alleged theft apparently took place five years ago.
Asyani works as a traditional masseuse in her village. Her son-in-law, though, is a carpenter based in the same village.
The court in Situbondo ordered her release on Monday, but added that the case against her would still proceed. Asyani has been charged for violating the forest protection law and may face up to five years in prison.
Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya said on Monday that she and President Joko Widodo would continue to monitor the case.
“The president is concerned about this case. Pak Jokowi is quite sensitive about such things,” Siti said.
“Last Friday, he asked me about the progress of the case and I have reported all the details to him.”
The minister said Asyani, who was first reported as being 45 years of age, was granted a release due to her age and health condition.
“The alleged offense also occurred five years ago. We have to understand Asyani’s condition,” Siti said.
“This also serves to show people that our law is non-discriminatory,” she added, in reference to criticism that law is only enforced when the perpetrators are poor people, while corporate executives guilty of larger crimes of deforestation have remained largely untouchable.
Asyani’s lawyer, Supriono, has maintained that the teak beams found at Asyani’s house did not belong to Perhutani. He said the beams were made when Asyani’s late husband cut down his own teak trees five years ago, when he was still alive.
Perhutani claims that it had lost Rp 4 million ($300) because of the alleged theft.
The case has drawn attention from students, politicians and environmentalists, who have urged the police to release Asyani.
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Source: The Jakarta Globe