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Trial of Romo Sandy and Benny Sumardi begins

SiaR - September 30, 1997

Bekasi – The trial of Romo Sandyawan Sumardi SJ and his older brother, Benny Sumardi, started yesterday (29/9) at the Bekasi State Court. Romo Sandy, as he is usually known, and Benny, are being tried for hiding the fugitives Budiman Sujatmiko, chair of the Peoples' Democratic Party (PRD) and Petrus Haryanto, the Secretary General of the PRD. At the time, the PRD was accused by the government of being behind the July 27 riots, which is yet to be proven.

Last Monday's session was delayed because their lawyers, the Indonesian Legal and Justice Defence Team (TPHKI) did not appear. TPHKI was established by a number of famous lawyers such as Hakim Garuda Nusantara SH and Luhut Pangaribuan SH.

Romo Sandy and Benny are being charged under Article 211 of the Penal Code which carries a maximum sentence of 11 months. As a clergyman, Romo Sandy in fact has special legal immunity under this article and should be tried under Catholic laws.

The Metro Jaya police and Bekasi Attorney General did not themselves take the case to court. "Military Headquarters are handling Romo's case", said a SiaR source from the Metro Jaya police.

Intimidation and treats of violence have shadowed the Jesuit pastor a number of times in the past. His phone has been disrupted by irresponsible parties. "When I make a phone call, which ever number I dial, it is connected to the St Carolus Hospital morgue or the Metro Jaya police station", he said.

Some time ago, his vehicle was damaged when it was crashed into by a car driven by a number of soldiers from Bogor [near Jakarta]. Fortunately, Romo Sandy was not hurt.

Others close to Romo Sandy were also terrorised. A day after the independence day celebrations, The St Carolus Hospital Independence Day Committee in Central Jakarta was interrogated by security personnel because they invited Romo Sandy to lead the independence day mass.

An irresponsible person also spread a report that Romo Sandy was the victim of a hit-and-run accident. He was in fact healthy except for his eye which could have been blinded because Armed Forces Chief, Feisal Tanjung forbid him to be treated in Australia last April. "We often here of these kind of things. Many people also telephoned here asking if the story was true", said Tigor Nainggolan, one of the staff of the Jakarta Social Institute of which Romo Sandy is the director.

[Translated by James Balowski]