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Pressure to get Pakpahan back in court

Tapol - July 31, 1997

There are moves in Jakarta to press ahead with the subversion trial of Muchtar Pakpahan, chair of the unrecognised trade union, the SBSI, despite the fact that he is suffering from a number of ailments.

The legal authorities in Jakarta are showing unseemly haste in getting Pakpahan back into court even though it is well established that he is seriously ill. Moves to continue with the trial were taken by the Attorney-General's Office, simultaneously with making an announcement that the government had turned down his request to go abroad for treatment.

Third opinion sought

Following Attorney General Singgih's announcement on 21 July that labour leader, Muchtar Pakpahan, would not be allowed to travel abroad for medical treatment, Pakpahan demanded that an independent medical team be set up to give an opinion on whether he needs to go abroad. Pakpahan, the chairperson of the unrecognised trade union federation, the SBSI, was rushed to a private hospital in Jakarta from Cipinang Prison in March after he had refused to accept treatment by the Police Clinic.

Pakpahan is suffering from a tumor on the lung, from a blood clot on the brain and appendicitis.

His trial for subversion was adjourned in March because of his health although the presiding-judge Djazuli P. Sudibyo, accused Pakpahan of seeking publicity by complaining about his health.

His doctors at Cikini Hospital where he has been under treatment since March this year said that Pakpahan needed lung imagy fluorescence endoscopy (LIFE) which is unavailable in Indonesia.

Attorney General Singgih said that a government-appointed team composed of a team of doctors at the Cipto Mangunkusumo General Hospital had decided that Pakpahan is not in need of LIFE and that his condition is not life-threatening or serious.

Pakpahan's lawyer, Bambang Widjojanto, said that a third opinion should be sought and that an independent medical team set up for this purpose should include the International Red Cross.

International support for Pakpahan to go abroad for treatment first came from John Shattuck, US Assistant Secretary of State. The request was reiterated this week by Stuart Eisenstat, a US State Department under-secretary, on a visit to Jakarta.

Furthermore, Dr Azrul Azwar, chairperson of the Indonesian Doctors' Association, the IDI, told officials of the SBSI that Pakpahan was entitled to a third opinion on whether he needed to go abroad.

SBSI acting chairperson Tohap Simanungkalit said that the union is preparing an official request for the government to seek a third opinion from independent sources.

Trial to be resumed?

The Attorney General has also said that Pakpahan's trial should be resumed as quickly as possible. The head of the Jakarta public prosecutor's office, Sudhono Iswahyudi, has written to the South Jakarta Court asking it to fix a date for the trial to resume. He said that the opinion of the government-appointed team of doctors regarding Pakpahan's state of health meant that he is now fit to stand trial. If necessary, a doctor could accompany him in court.

'If Pakpahan refuses to attend the trial, he will be the one to suffer. We will ask the court to continue with the trial even if the accused refuses to attend,' said Sudhono.

However, the chair of the South Jakarta Court, who was previously so dismissive about Pakpahan's complaints, now says that if it is thought necessary for a doctor to accompany him during the court hearings, this means that he is not fit to stand trial. 'How can we continue hearing the case if the accused is not in a good state of health?' The judge said he would seek further clarifications about the accused's state of health before setting a date for the trial to continue.