Some 24 students were arrested and several others injured when members of the Indonesian security forces broke up a demonstration in Yogyakarta, Central Java on 1 April 1997. According to one report, those arrested are detained in Sleman District Military Command Centre, other reports suggest that they are being held in police custody. Amnesty International fears that they are at risk of ill-treatment or torture - the risk is particularly acute if they are in military custody.
According to reports, the demonstration of about 300 people took place at 9am on the campus of Gadja Mada University, Yogyakarta. The students were demonstrating in support of the ousted leader of the Indonesian Democratic Party (Partai Demokrasi Indonesia - PDI), Megawati Sukarnoputri, and were calling for greater democracy and for a boycott of the election for Indonesia's House of Representatives due on 29 May. The students were threatening, or had begun, a hunger-strike in support of their demands. The security forces intervened to break up the demonstration, allegedly beating and stamping on demonstrators as they did so.
There is no information to suggest that the demonstrators were engaged in any violence and Amnesty International is concerned that they may have been arrested solely for the peaceful expression of their beliefs.
Tension has been mounting in the run up to the May 29 Parliamentary elections. Growing calls for political change inside the country have met with repression from the government. Since January 1997 at least 17 people have been detained in connection with their peaceful calls for an election boycott or for political change. They include former parliamentarian Sri Bintang Pamungkas who was detained on 5 March together with two of his colleagues from the unofficial United Democratic Party of Indonesia (Partai Demokrasi Indonesia - PUDI) after sending cards to celebrate the Moslem festival of Idul Fitri. The cards called for the election to be boycotted and for President Suharto to be replaced. All three are being held under the Anti-subversion Law which punishes subversion with death or up to life imprisonment. Others have been arrested, and in some cases charged or tried, for distributing pamphlets or putting up posters calling for an election boycott and for criticising past elections.