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Soliders accused of abducting activists to face trial

Agence France Presse - December 22, 1998

Jakarta – Eleven members of the Indonesian armed forces will face a military court Wednesday, charged with involvement in the abduction and torture of political activists, a rights group said Tuesday.

Munir of the Commission for Victims of Violence told AFP that he learned of the trial date from a subpoena sent by the military prosecutor to a former abductee asked to testify at the trial Wednesday.

The 11 suspects, from the elite Kopassus special forces and including seven non-commissioned officers, are suspected of involvement in the abduction and torture of at least 24 activists earlier this year.

Three of their superiors, including a son-in-law of former president Suharto, have already received administrative sanctions from the head of the armed forces on the advice of a military council probing the abductions.

President B.J. Habibie on Monday pledged that the government will continue with its probe into the extent of the involvement in the abductions of Suharto's son-in-law, Prabowo Subianto, who headed Kopassus at the time of the kidnappings.

Prabowo was honorably discharged from the armed forces in August. Two other senior officers of Kopassus were barred at the time from ever holding an operational position in the armed forces. The military says the three senior officers might face court martial if evidence against them emerges during the trial of the 11 soldiers.

At least 24 activists were abducted early in the year in the run-up to a general session of the People's Consultative Assembly to elect Suharto for a seventh consecutive term. Nine of the abducted victims have since resurfaced, one has been found dead and 13 are still listed as missing, Munir said.

Munir however expressed doubts that much would come out of the current court case, saying that the military court "will not go into the depth of the matter, since the top-level officer giving the order" for the kidnappings was not on trial.

[On December 23, AFP reported that the trial, held at the Jakarta Military High Court in East Jakarta, opened with the military prosecutor reading out the charges against the defendants, seven of them non-commissioned officers. The tightly guarded courtroom was packed with people, including human rights activists and journalists - James Balowski.].