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Fr Sandy: My trial a test for Indonesian law

SiaR - October 7, 1997 (Summary by Tapol)

Jakarta &150; Father Sandyawan Sumardi SJ, 38, said, after a hearing of the trial in which he and his brother Benny are the accused, that their trial is a test for the Indonesian government and for the rule of law. 'Does Indonesian law respect the principle of sanctuary given by a spiritual leader to a political activist whose life is in danger because of his political activities?'

'As a pastor, I an fully aware of my humanitarian duty to uphold the principles of canonic law to protect those whose lives are in danger, whether because of war or political circumstances,' he said. The test for Indonesian law is, whether it respects the principle of sanctuary for someone whose life is threatened because of his political activities.'

Fr Sandy and his brother are being charged with giving sanctuary to three leaders of the People Democratic Party (PRD) who were accused of being behind the 27 July 1996 event. This accusation was later dropped and the PRD activists were charged with subversion based on their political beliefs.

The hearing on Monday heard the indictment of the prosecutor, who charged the accused under Article 221 of the Criminal Code with a maximum penalty of nine months.

There were attempts by the public prosecutor's office and the police to abandon the case because they felt that it did not constitute a criminal act, bearing in mind that Fr Sandy as a religious leader has a kind of immunity to protect those whose lives are in danger because of their political activities. 'The canonic law of the Catholic Church guarantees this,' said his lawyer, Luhut Pangaribuan, after the court hearing.

But these attempts were frustrated by armed forces HQ which insisted on proceeding with the trial. Some church circles see this as a deliberate attempt by the armed forces to discredit the Suharto government in the eyes of the world. 'The Vatican will not let this pass,' one commentator told SiaR. The court hearing was attended by representatives from the diplomatic corps and foreign journalists. The next session on 13 October will hear Fr Sandy's demurrer.