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Lawyers dispute legality of Aberson trial

Tapol - February 1997

The team of lawyers defending member of Parliament Aberson Marle Sihalalo who has been charged with insulting the President asked the court Tuesday, 18 February to declare that it had no authority to try the accused.

In a 25-page demurrer, the four lawyers, who took turns reading the document in court, said that as a member of Parliament and the Supreme Legislative Assembly - DPR/MPR - the accused has a constitutional duty to discuss matters of state, including supervising the way in which government is conducted, a duty which gives him immunity under the law.

"What the defendant did was neither a crime nor a violation but was political discourse aimed at helping educate the general public politically. His statements cannot be said to have insulted the rulers of the country because what he said reflected the true situation in Indonesian society. Moreover, his remarks were directed at the system, not at a particular institution or individual," the lawyers said.

The lawyers also pointed out that the indictment did not say that the President or the MPR really did feel insulted by his remarks or lectures.

The indictment accuses Aberson of insulting the President and Vice-President and the DPR/MPR in lectures or speeches delivered at the democracy forum held on the premises of the PDI in Jakarta.