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Tribunal told of senior officer's involvement

Jakarta Post - January 29, 1999

Jakarta – A military tribunal trying 11 alleged abductors of political activists revealed on Thursday the involvement of higher-ranking officers who have yet to be processed legally.

A witness, First Lieutenant Pandit Purnawa of the National Police Detective unit, testified that his superior Col. Jhon Lalo instructed him to prepare a cell for activist Andi Arief on April 16 last year as Arief would be handed over to the police by an unidentified group of men later that night. "Andi, who was handcuffed and wearing shorts and a white T-shirt, was brought in by Col. Jhon Lalo, Lt. Col. Kamaludin Lubis and four men I did not recognize," said Pandit, who also testified that he did not recognize any of the 11 defendants.

Andi, an activist of the Indonesian Student Solidarity for Democracy (SMID), an affiliate of the outlawed People's Democratic Party (PRD), was abducted by unidentified men in Bandar Lampung on March 28.

Military prosecutor Harom Wijaya said after the court session that Jhon could be summoned to shed more light on the abductions while Kamaludin was already among 17 people to testify before the court.

Another witness, Sucipto, a neighborhood chief in a low-cost apartment block in Klender, East Jakarta, told the court that kidnappers visited his house before they seized activists Nezar Patria and Aan Rusdianto on March 13 last year. Activist Mugianto was arrested separately half an hour later.

He told the Jakarta Military Court trying the 11 Army Special Forces (Kopassus) soldiers charged with kidnapping political activists that two men claiming to be personnel from the Jakarta Regional Military Command came over to his apartment on March 13 last year. "Don't be afraid, we are security personnel and we suspect that a number of your people here were involved in the blast in Tanah Tinggi in January 1998," Sucipto quoted one of them as saying.

Sucipto, who lives on the third floor, said the men told him the "suspects" lived on the second floor. They demanded that Sucipto escort them there. "I instructed my secretary to go down to check, and she found that those people were not home," Sucipto said.

He said the two "security personnel" waited in his apartment, one of them using a cellular phone to contact his "commander" using code words. We sat together for about one hour until my secretary told me the activists were home," Sucipto said. He added that he then was told to accompany the two unidentified men down to the second floor and to knock on the suspects' door.

"When someone opened the door, he was quickly grabbed and handcuffed by these men and another was also handcuffed while a gun was pointed at his neck before they were taken away. "A number of other people also went in and took away a set of computers, documents and other things ... they did this in only about 15 minutes," Sucipto said.

Just like Pandit, Sucipto said he did not recognize any of the defendants.

Aan, Nezar, Mugianto and Andi had been among 23 activists who were abducted by unidentified men since April 1997. Nine of the activists have resurfaced after weeks of absence and spoke of abductions and torture, one of them was found dead and 13 others are still listed as missing. The court adjourned before noon and was set to resume next Tuesday.

Human rights groups have said the trial of the 11 Kopassus soldiers was a "farce" staged only to protect senior military officers and former president Soeharto. The groups also questioned why the charges did not mention torture. Military prosecutors have insisted the defendants had acted on their own initiative and the charges only related to the nine activists who have reappeared. At the time of the abductions, the defendants were under the command of Lt. Gen. Prabowo Subianto, who is Soeharto's son-in-law. Prabowo was honorarily discharged from the military in August for his involvement in the abductions.

Rights activists have been demanding that Prabowo, now in Jordan, must be put on trial as he had admitted before the Officer's Honor Council in August that he was involved in the abductions.