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Dita Sari courtroom in moving protest

Peoples Democratic Party - April 10, 1997

On April 7 members of the Struggle Alliance for Democracy and Human Rights (APDHAM) entered the courtroom where Dita Sari and Coen Pontoh were being tried. It was the day on which they would read out their defence speeches. At 10.00am Dita and Coen arrived at the court where Dita handed out flowers to the judge, prosecutor and those in the gallery. The judges opened the sessions and Dita was granted permission to read out the PRD Manifesto. Her reading was punctuated by frequent shouts and applause of support. After 15 minutes Coen Pontoh took over and finished reading the PRD Manifesto. Dita then read a 51 page statement setting out the PRD political struggle.

People in the gallery began singing the Hymn of Blood, a much loved strong of struggle. The judge threatened expulsion of troublemakers.

Dita began to cry as she near the end of reading her speech. The crowd went completely silent as they listened.

The judges called an adjournment after Dita finished. The APDHAM activists all stood up and formed a solid group in the middle of the courtroom. Coen Pontoh raised his fist shouting several democratic slogans and then led the APDHAM activists in singing Blood of Struggle again. Most people were seen to be in tears, including Dita, Pontoh and their families. This was followed by the singing of more songs and chants of "Free our comrades". Dita and Pontoh were lead out of the courtroom.

Outside the APDHAM activists gathered again putting on headbands and raising up posters with the slogan "Democracy or Death!". East Timorese youth, students and Megawati supporters joined the group as several activists made speeches. The security apparatus gathered but the rally refused to disperse. There were more speeches and activists handed out leaflets to everybody attending the trial.

The session resumed where Coen Pontoh read his defence statement, followed by that of the defence lawyers. The security apparatus then quickly dragged Dita away out the back door to a waiting van. But before she was dragged inside she handed out flowers, then raised her fist shouting" Long live The PRD!" "Long live democracy!" "Long live the Maubere people!" [Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor received this report direct from the PRD underground.]