Central Jakarta District Court judges acquitted two men on Tuesday who were controversially charged with violating consumer protection laws after selling Apple iPads without Indonesian-language manuals.
“Based on expert testimony and an official letter issued by the Trade Ministry, the iPad is not among the 45 items that must have Indonesian-language manuals,” presiding judge Sapawi said.
Sapawi also said that since the two defendants were not distributors, importers or manufacturers, they were under no legal obligation to be certified. The prosecutors had accused the two of operating without certification.
The court ordered the return of the iPads in question and cleared the two men, Randy Lester Samu and Dian Yudha Negara, who had found themselves at the center of a storm of controversy since their arrests on Nov. 24, 2010, in a sting operation.
Policemen posing as buyers had responded to an advertisement on Kaskus, an online forum. Randy and Dian told police they bought the tablet computers in Singapore, but they were not able to produce customs papers.
The undercover operation, which police said was part of a crackdown on electronics smuggling, and Randy and Dian’s subsequent 65-day detention were roundly criticized by legal experts and consumer groups.
Tuesday’s acquittal was greeted by applause from the gallery, where friends, relatives and supporters of the defendants were watching proceedings.
The pair had faced up to five years in jail and fines of up to Rp 2 billion ($226,000), although prosecutors had asked for just five months in jail.
Randy, speaking after the verdict, said he had been prepared for the worst.
“I am now very thankful that we had a panel of judges who really considered the facts presented at court, and, of course, for having such a top team of lawyers,” he said.
Dian said he was “optimistic” the pair would be acquitted by the court, saying that their defense lawyers’ arguments had been “perfect.” “Thank God, we were acquitted today,” Dian said.
Virza Roy Hizzal, who represented the pair, said during the trial that the officers who had arrested them had ignored a 2009 Trade Ministry regulation that listed 45 electronics and telematics products that were required to be accompanied by Indonesian-language manuals.
IPads were not on that list, and a member of the National Consumer Protection Agency (BPKN) testified to that effect.
Alex Lay, a member of the defense team, said that the verdict showed that reselling goods bought abroad, as long as there was not a huge quantity of them, was not against the law.
He said that the case should be used as a precedent in other cases where people were standing trial for the same offense. Two other men are currently facing similar charges.
Victor Dedi Sukma, another member of the legal team, expressed hope that prosecutors would abide by a law forbidding acquittals from being appealed.
The issue is set to stay in the public eye as a legal consortium on Oct. 4 brought it before the Constitutional Court, asking it to revoke Article 8 of the Law on Consumer Protection.
The 24-member Indonesian Advocate Organization (OAI) claims the law has no legal basis and should be struck down.