Acquittal sparks outrage in Indonesian human trafficking case

Acquittal sparks outrage in Indonesian human trafficking case

An Indonesian court has acquitted Terbit Rencana Perangin Angin, a former government official accused of human trafficking, after people were found locked in cages near his palm oil plantation, a decision by a court in North Sumatra that raises the prospect of impunity for state actors, according to the country’s human rights watchdog.

The scandal in Indonesia, the world’s top palm oil producer, came to light in 2022 when a corruption investigation led police to discover people being held in cages on Terbit’s property. Investigations found that 665 people had been held in the cells since 2010, court records show.

Human rights activist Anis Hidayah called the acquittal unfair, highlighting concerns about impunity for state officials. Prosecutors confirmed they would appeal. Terbit, who is already serving a nine-year prison sentence for corruption, said the detainees were in a drug rehabilitation program, but prosecutors argued they had been subjected to forced labor and torture on his plantation.

Reports also indicate that his plantation supplied palm oil to major global brands. In 2022, eight people were convicted of crimes related to the practice and received sentences of up to three years.

(Disclaimer: With contributions from agencies.)