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'Slander' provokes threat of lawsuit

South China Morning Post - January 31, 1997

Joe Leahy – An Islamic group says it will take the country's most outspoken Muslim leader, Abdurrahman Wahid, to court after he alleged the group started religious riots in the West Java town of Tasikmalaya late last month.

Mr Wahid, head of the reputedly 30-million strong Nahdlatul Ulama organisation, claimed he had evidence the Humanika Foundation, a Muslim human rights group, incited the unrest.

Mr Wahid said the group masterminded the riots on December 26, which left four people dead and led to the destruction of more than 100 buildings, in order to discredit the Nahdlatul Ulama.

However, Mr Wahid, a wily politician and close friend of ousted opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri, may have stepped into the lion's den.

Also this week, he accused Adi Sasono, director of the Centre for Information and Development Studies, and Eggy Sudjana, an expert in environmental law with the centre, of involvement in the plot.

The centre was founded by the powerful Association of Islamic Intellectuals, which is headed by Research and Technology Minister Yusuf Habibie, a protege of President Suharto. Mr Sasono is also secretary-general of the association.

The chairman of the Humanika Foundation, Bursah Zarnubi, was yesterday quoted in the Jakarta Post as saying he and his colleagues would sue Mr Wahid for slander.

"We will file a lawsuit within the next few days on grounds that he violated the principle of presumption of innocence," said Mr Zarnubi.