One daughter’s solitary struggle for her father on death row


“I only want justice for my family,” Yulianni Anni, 24, told a meeting at the Judicial Commission late last week.

The meeting, attended by representatives from the Judicial Commission and the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) discussed filing a case review on the death sentence for Anni’s father, Ruben Pata Sombu, and her older brother Markus.

Ruben, Markus and six other suspects were convicted of the murder and rape of Andarias Pandin, his wife Martina Labirin and son Israel on Dec. 23 and 24, 2005.

Ruben and Markus were charged by police for masterminding the brutal murder and were sentenced to death by Makale District Court in 2006 after several hearings.

According to South Sulawesi police, the eight men murdered Pandin’s family because of inheritance conflict over a Tongkonan, the Toraja traditional house.

“Tana Toraja police came to our house on Jan. 13, 2006 and took my father to the police precinct to make a statement,” she said. “My mother and I were puzzled. We didn’t know what my father had done wrong.”

The following day, the police arrested her two brothers, Markus and Martinus at their workplaces without any arrest warrant. Markus worked at a hospital while Martinus was a carpenter like his father.

“Our family asked for a lawyer but the police said that they had provided one,” she said, adding that neither she nor her family met the lawyer before the trial began.

Unexpectedly, at the trial, four of the other suspects confessed to the murders and retracted their accusations against Ruben, Markus and Martinus, saying that they had made the accusations because of hatred towards Ruben’s family.

“We filed a review to the Court but the verdict remained the same, which says that my father and brother should still be sentenced to death,” she said.

Anni’s family decided to find another lawyer to fight their appeal at Makassar High Court.

During that trial, the judge released one suspect, Budi Sopian, because he provided CCTV footage showing that he was at his office when the murder was committed. Ruben and Markus were sent to detention centers at Lowokwaru and Porong in Malang, East Java in 2008, to await their execution.

“My father and my brother are only carpenters. We could not provide video footage like Budi did,” she said.

Anni’s mother became sick and died in 2011.

“I decided to quit my job and went to Jakarta to seek legal help for my father and brother,” she said.

Anni filed reports at the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute, the National Commission on Human Rights, and the Judicial Commission in 2012 but it did no good.

“They told me that I should write the case chronology, not speak it like I did,” she said, adding that she knew nothing about bureaucracy.

Then, Andreas Nurmandala Sutiono, Ruben’s priest in Lowokwaru, met a journalist in the children detention center. Andreas then introduced the journalist to Anni, and encouraged her to tell her family’s whole story.

“Based on my conversations with Ruben, I believe this man is not guilty,” Andreas told the Post.

Last year, Kontras lent support to Anni’s solitary struggle. “We found many irregularities in Ruben’s case. Neither Ruben, Martinus nor Juni had arrest warrants. The suspects were physically abused by the police while being questioned,” Yati Andriyani, of Kontras told the Post.

The commission will take the case to an international forum as a miscarriage of justice.

Anni is grateful that the media spotlight turned on her father’s plight. “One day when I was depressed by the struggle, my father told me not to worry, humans are smart but God is smarter and will show the way.” (tam)

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