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More soldiers admit kidnapping activists

Agence France Presse - February 16, 1999

Jakarta – Four junior Indonesian army officers undergoing a court martial for a series of kidnappings admitted on Tuesday abducting political activists in the last months of the Suharto regime.

The admission of the four from the elite army Kopassus special force followed confessions by three other soldiers to the same court last week that they were involved in kidnapping pro-democracy activists.

The activists were seized by unidentified men. Some were held in solitary confinement for weeks and some said they were tortured. Nine of them have resurfaced, one was found dead and 13 are still listed as missing. Most were warned never to talk of their ordeal.

Captain Fauka Nurfarid, Captain Jaka Budi Utama, Captain Dadang Hendrayuda and Captain Untung Budiarto, answering questions from the military prosecutor, admitted taking part in the abduction of between three to six people.

The nine kidnapped activists who have resurfaced are Desmond Mahesa, Pius Lustrilanang, Harianto Taslam, Faisal Reza, Aan Risdianto, Nezar Patria, Mugianto, Waluyo Jati and Andi Arief.

All four defendants also said the abductions were part of an operation by a team codenamed "Mawar" (Rose) headed by another defendant, Major Bambang Kristiono. He has yet to be questioned.

Nurfarid said the Mawar team was formed in mid-1997 to check on members or suspected members of the outlawed People's Democratic Party and other radical groups planning to scuttle a session of the People's Consultative Assembly in March 1998.

The assembly re-elected Suharto as president for his seventh consecutive term on March 11. He resigned in May that year amid mounting public pressure and major rioting.

Three other defendants, all captains from the same team, told the military tribunal last week they had each taken part in an operation to abduct eight of the activists.

On Tuesday Captain Dadang Hendrayuda admitted interrogating all nine activists but denied torturing any of them. He also said, that contrary to the victims' testimony in court, they were not blindfolded or handcuffed during their questioning.

"It was I who had my face covered and was dressed in a medical outfit so that the witnesses could not recognize me," Hendrayuda said.

At the time the Kopassus unit was under the command of one of Suharto's sons-in-law, now-retired lieutenant general Prabowo Subianto.

Press reports in August said Prabowo had admitted during a two-week investigation by the military's Officers Honorary Council that he ordered the kidnappings.

The officers' council discharged Prabowo and two other officers for their role in the abduction and torture of activists. The court will resume on Thursday.