Jakarta: The fight to prove the innocence of cleaners and teachers accused of sodomy at a prestigious international school in Jakarta is being waged not just by lawyers in court but by Indonesian netizens whose battleground is social media.

When Fauzan Luthsa, a public relations consultant in Jakarta and father of two young children, heard a preschooler contracted herpes after allegedly being raped by six janitors at the Jakarta Intercultural School he was convinced of their guilt at first.


Police said one of the cleaners, Azwar, who died under questioning in the police cells, committed suicide out of shame by drinking bleach during a break in interrogation.

“Personally, I was among many people who in 2014 believed the cleaners were bad people,” Mr Fauzan tells Fairfax Media. But Mr Fauzan’s conscience was pricked by the Twitter account @kurawa, run by a mysterious netizen called Rudi Valinka, who has 153,000 followers.

Mr Rudi, who declined to be interviewed for this story, has pointed out some of the inconsistencies in the legal case against the cleaners.

“@Kurawa tweeted that they were not accompanied by lawyers during interrogation, although the interrogation report said they were,” Mr Fauzan says.

“But the most striking one was the photo of Azwar, who posed in front of the police chopper a few hours before he allegedly committed suicide. He looked so cheerful and happy in that photograph. But then at midnight he committed suicide.”

In August 2015 the five other cleaners were given jail sentences of between seven and eight years for raping three pre-school children. Four had originally confessed but later recanted, saying they had been tortured by police.

Canadian teacher Neil Bantleman and Indonesian teacher’s aide Ferdinant Tjiong were also jailed for 11 years for allegedly raping the same three children.

Human rights group Kontras and the University of Indonesia’s Judicial Watch Society say the evidence was flimsy and the accused were subject to human rights violations.

Mr Fauzan says a group of netizens, who were intrigued by the @Kurawa tweets and had become convinced of the cleaners and teachers’ innocence, decided to meet in person.

On April 26, a disparate group of about 12 students, lawyers, accountants and entrepreneurs met at a Balinese restaurant in South Jakarta and formed the movement Kawan8 (Friends of the eight).

“It’s kind of strange because we didn’t know each other, it could just be possible that there was a serial killer among us,” says co-ordinator Arita Zulkifli, a politics student at the University of Indonesia.

Kawan8 disseminates information about the case on social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. (Indonesians are enthusiastic users of social media – in 2012 Jakarta was named the Twitter capital of the world.) “Our mission is to change public opinion about these eight people,” Ms Arita says.

They have their own merchandise: everything from hats to umbrellas inscribed with Justice4the innocents and Kawan8.

Kawan8 has also launched a crowdfunding campaign through the website, which has so far raised 192 799 794 rupiah (almost $20,000), to help fund a legal appeal.

This week Kawan8 hope to meet representatives from the two largest Muslim organisations in Indonesia, Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah.

Mr Fauzan points out that Muhammadiyah helped seek justice for the family of suspected terrorist Siyono, who died while in police custody.

“In Indonesia it is paramount to get support from religious institutions such as Muhammadiyah and NU,” he says.

Last Friday Kawan8 members visited the teachers and cleaners in Cipinang jail in Jakarta for the first time, wearing their eponymous T-shirts.

“Although I had never met them before, just knew their faces from the media, it was as if we had known each other for a long time,” says Kawan8 activist Endang Sulistari.


[one of the cleaners] waved his hand toward us when he saw us coming into the prison’s meeting hall. I tried to hold back tears but I couldn’t.”

Neil Bantleman’s wife Tracy, who was at Friday’s prison visit, says it was tremendously uplifting and inspiring for the cleaners and teachers to have the support of Kawan8.

“They confessed to us that in the beginning they were like every other member of the public and they believed what happened at JIS was true because the media reported it to be so,” Ms Bantleman says.

However she says the @kurawa twitter account provided information that wasn’t previously in the public arena. “Having the support of the Indonesian community is like a breath of fresh air.”


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