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500 in march after losing court battle

South China Morning Post - December 12, 1997

Jenny Grant, Jakarta – More than 500 supporters of opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri held a rowdy march yesterday after losing a crucial court battle linked to riots in the capital last year.

"There is no justice! Megawati for new president," the crowd chanted, only a block from the presidential palace.

About 400 mobile police and soldiers armed with tear-gas, semi-automatic rifles and riot shields tightly controlled the group as it marched from the central Jakarta court.

Dozens of police on motorbikes followed the protesters as onlookers cheered support. The march blocked five lanes of traffic on one of Jakarta's busiest roads, Jalan Gadjah Mada. Soldiers guarded banks and shopping centres in the busy commercial district.

The protesters were reacting against the court's decision that it could not rule in the case of 124 supporters of Ms Megawati.

The group were suing the leaders of a raid on the Indonesia Democracy Party (PDI) headquarters in central Jakarta last year.

Riot police and supporters of rival PDI leader Suryadi led an early morning raid on the party building on July 27 last year which deteriorated into riots which left five dead.

The 124 were holed up in the building and many suffered injuries in the violent raid. Sixteen people are still missing from the riots.

The case named Mr Suryadi, five other PDI leaders and the chief of the Central Jakarta police. The plaintiffs demanded compensation of 100 million rupiah (HK$171,553) each.

Mr Suryadi ousted Ms Megawati as the leader of the PDI at a rebel congress in June last year which was backed by the Government and military.

Chief Judge Abas Soemantri said the attack on the PDI office was led by Mr Suryadi's supporters, but because Mr Suryadi was not at the crime scene, the court could not rule against him.

In a three-hour verdict Judge Soemantri said the plaintiffs should have filed separate cases against the seven accused. He said the court could only consider the case of Mr Suryadi.

Max Lamuda, the group's lawyer, said: "We will appeal to a high court."