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Indonesia court rules Megawati case can be heard

Reuters - August 1, 1997

Jakarta – An Indonesian appeal court has ruled that a lower court has the authority to decide on a challenge by ousted minority party leader Megawati Sukarnoputri against her government-backed overthrow.

Megawati's lawyers told Reuters on Friday the Jakarta High Court last month ordered the district court to start hearing the case again after it ruled last October it had no jurisdiction on what it said was an internal party matter.

"The Central Jakarta State Court has the authority to examine and hear the plaintiff's suit," said the decision, received by Megawati's legal team on Thursday.

Megawati and her secretary-general Alex Litaay had sued party rivals for organising a government-funded congress in Medan in North Sumatra in June 1996, arguing that the meeting violated party rules and was illegal.

They also sued Interior Minister Yogie Memet, and armed forces and national police chiefs for their support of the congress.

The Medan congress replaced Megawati as party chief, naming deputy parliamentary speaker Surjadi in her place.

"We think that within two or three weeks, the case could begin hearings," Megawati's chief lawyer, R.O. Tambunan, told a news conference.

He added that he believed the case would still go ahead even if the defendants asked the Supreme Court to review the decision.

Tambunan said this case was the flagship of the hundreds of cases filed across Indonesia by Megawati's supporters against party rivals in the wake of her ousting.

"If we win this case, then the hundreds of other cases will not be needed and we will stop them," Tambunan said.

Analysts say the internal party friction in the PDI led to the collapse of the party's vote at the poll, which fell from around 15 percent to slightly more than three percent.

Most PDI campaign events were poorly attended with security forces often outnumbering party members after Megawati called on her supporters not to support Surjadi.