JAKARTA (Indonesia) — A middle-ranking Indonesian army officer has been stripped of his military rank after being sentenced Tuesday to life imprisonment for murder, joint deprivation or independence and removing bodies with the intent of concealment in a case which drew public outcry.

Before his sentencing, Priyanto was the title colonel. He was then dismissed from military service.

Two of Priyanto’s subordinates were there when their car collided with two teenage riders on a motorcycle. Handi Saputra (17) was riding the motorcycle in West Java with Salsabila (14)

Priyanto, a Jakarta-based lawyer, admitted that he was considering disposing of the bodies of the two teens because he believed they had died and were not moving or breathing.

However, a number other witnesses — including a civilian who lifted the victims into Priyanto’s car at crime scene — stated that Handi was still moving and groaning.

Instead of taking him to the hospital Priyanto instructed his men to transport the victims to the car. Priyanto decided, despite the opposition of his subordinates, to toss the bodies in the nearest river so they could drift into the ocean.

Three days later, the bodies of the two men were discovered by locals in separate rivers in Central Java province.

As a witness, the forensic expert said that water was found in Handi’s respiratory system. This indicated that he was alive at the time he was thrown into the river.

One of the judges presiding over the case said that the case was meant to teach soldiers respect for human rights, even though they have been trained to kill.

Brig. Before reading the verdict, Gen. Faridah Faisal stated Tuesday.

The case is also being tried against his two subordinates.

In a TV ONE broadcast, relatives of the victims said that they had accepted the verdict against Priyanto as well as his punishment.

Many Indonesians were happy to see the army withdraw from politics following Suharto’s 32-year, often brutal rule. The protests of 1998 ended Suharto’s reign. These changes marked a significant break with the past. They also set the stage for civil-led reforms to improve the control of military institutions and policy by the elected government.

Although Indonesia has a reputation of brutality, their image as an armed force has improved since Suharto’s departure.