Indonesian Court Acquits Ex-Official Accused of Enslaving Addicts

The ex-regent had been accused of imprisoning hundreds of people under the guise of drug treatment and forcing them to work at his plantation and factory.

A former official accused of imprisoning and enslaving 656 people on his estate in Indonesia under the guise of drug rehabilitation has been acquitted on charges of human trafficking, adding to concerns about the corruption that flourishes at the regional level in the country.

A three-judge panel on Monday found the former official, Terbit Rencana Perangin-angin, not guilty, a blow to those who had sought justice and compensation for imprisonment, abuse and forced labor.

“We are quite sad because in Indonesia, which has been an independent country for decades, there is still the practice of modern slavery, and this occurred in the home of a public official who has the responsibility to protect his citizens,” said Anis Hidayah, a member of Indonesia’s human rights commission.

The trial was conducted in Langkat Regency, a county-size district in North Sumatra where Mr. Perangin-angin long held sway as regent and some of his relatives held key positions of power.

After the judges read their verdict, Mr. Perangin-angin thanked them and knelt down in front of them, touching his head to the floor.

Prosecutors, who had sought a 14-year sentence and $140,000 in restitution, said they would appeal.

The case has highlighted how widespread corruption is at the regional level in Indonesia, where governors, regents and big-city mayors are often called “little kings.”

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Updated: Juli 9, 2024 — 1:49 pm

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