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Witnesses fail to recognise kidnappers

Agence France Presse - January 28, 1999 (abridged)

Jakarta – Two witnesses, a civilian and a soldier, Thursday told an Indonesian military court they could not recognize any of the 11 military defendants as the abductors of activists they had encountered before.

Sucipto Hadinoto, the local neighbourhood administrator at low-cost appartments in Klender, East Jakarta, told the court he had seen one activist taken by force from one of the appartments on March 13.

He said while two people in civilian clothes went to his appartment to ask for information on two people living in the complex, about 10 others remained downstairs.

But when confronted with the 11 defendants, Hadinoto could not recognise any of them. Hadinoto said the two men had waited for about one hour before the occupant of the appartment returned home.

"I only saw one young man taken away by force, a gun pointed to his neck and his hands handcuffed," he said adding the men, whom he believed were "security personnel" had not shown or him any credentials.

Two activists were abducted from the same flat, Aan Rusdianto and Nezar Patria. Another student activist, Mugianto, was abducted later on the same day as he returned home to the same flat. The security men had told him two men living in the apartment were involved in a bomb-making operation in 1998.

A second witness, Lieutenant Colonel Sarid Purnawan of the national police headquarters, also claimed not to recognize any of the defendants as among a group of five people who had handed over an abducted activist, Andi Arif, to the headquarters for detention on April 16. "I don't think any of them (the defendants) were among the four personnel in plainclothes that came to hand over the detainee," Purnawan said.

The fifth person who came with the detainee was a police colonel named John Nalo, he said. Nalo, he added, had already called him earlier to tell him to expect the arrival of a new detainee and demand a detention room be prepared. Arif was detained there for one week and was later moved to the Jakarta police headquarters.

Twenty-three activists are known to have been abducted in the dying months of the Suharto regime by unidentified men. Some were detained in solitary confinement for weeks and some also spoke of torture after they were released. One of the 23, nine have resurfaced, one was found dead and 13 are listed as missing.

The judge said the trial would resume Tuesday. Rights activisits have already called for a halt to the trial, charging it is an attempt to cover up the real perpetrators of the crime. They cited the military prosecutor's claim that the 11 defendants, seven of them junior officers, had acted on their own initiative.