Piles of old sandals donated to oppose the trial of a 15-year-old boy accused of stealing sandals.
The protest, which began just before the New Year, was unusual even after many new, boundary-shattering forms of dissent seized the attention of much of the world in 2011 — piles of old sandals donated to oppose the trial of a 15-year-old boy accused by a police sergeant of stealing his sandals.
The protest extended over much of Indonesia and was the subject of newspaper headlines and social networks, and it seemed to have an effect: While the boy was found guilty on Wednesday, he was immediately freed to the custody of his parents.
Before the verdict, dozens of students and activists gathered outside the courtroom, in Palu, the capital of Central Sulawesi, to call for the release of the boy, who was identified only as A.A.L. because of his age. They brought sandals to the courthouse in protest, and shouted when the judge read the verdict.
“Many people are not happy with this decision,” said Sofyan Farid Lembah, a commissioner at the Palu office of the National Commission for Child Protection, a public agency that organised the protest. He called the proceeding a “monkey trial,” and said his agency would ask the national Judicial Commission to investigate the judge. When shown a pair of sandals during the trial, the sergeant, Ahmad Rusdi Harahap, said they were the wrong brand and size, The Associated Press reported. But the judge ruled that the boy was guilty of theft even though the sandals did not belong to the sergeant.
Elsewhere in the country, protesters were dropping off their used sandals and flip-flops at the offices of the commission for child protection, police stations and prosecutors' offices.
The initial goal was to collect 1,000 pairs of sandals, organisers said, but by Wednesday more than 1,200 pairs had been offered.
“The protest is much bigger than we expected,” said Mr. Lembah, who helped deliver a first batch of sandals to a police post in Palu. He said the commission would continue its protest until the boy's name was cleared.
Muhammad Ikhsan, the secretary of the child protection commission, who has been documenting the case, said the protest was an effort to improve the legal process so that children were not turned into criminals in cases involving petty offenses.
Mr. Harahap's sandals were reportedly stolen from outside a police boardinghouse in Palu in November 2010. Six months later, the sergeant accused the boy of taking them as he walked home from school, and the boy was then interrogated and badly beaten, according to Mr. Ikhsan. Mr. Ikhsan said the boy's parents had filed a complaint after they discovered bruises on his body. The sergeant then brought formal charges.
Mr. Harahap, a member of the Central Sulawesi Police Mobile Brigade, could face disciplinary action depending on the results of a police tribunal, said a police spokesman, Inspector-General Saud Nasution. Brigadier Jhon Samson, a police official accused of having a role in the beating, has been prevented from seeking a promotion for a year.
Before the verdict, Mr. Nasution said that while authorities had handled the case according to the correct procedures, the National Police had encouraged the local police to look into the allegation of mistreatment. But activists say the public indignation over the case is a sign that people are fed up with abuses by the police.
The boy could have faced up to five years in prison — a more severe sentence than that meted out to people convicted in terrorism and major corruption cases. — New York Times News Service