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Soldier says more than 9 activists abducted

Agence France Presse - February 18, 1999

Jakarta – An Indonesian soldier Thursday told a military court here that more than nine activists had been kidnapped by troops in the last months of the Suharto regime.

Captain Fauzami Syahrul Multhafar told a military tribunal nine had been held in solitary confinement at a former storehouse in an isolated east Jakarta location used as a detention center, but that there were other victims taken elsewhere.

"It is so in the data [that our unit had], but they were not there," he said, when asked by the judge whether more than the nine people had been kidnapped by the special forces unit of which the defendant was a member.

The defendant, however, said he could not remember the names of the others outside the nine they are accused of abducting – Desmon Mahesa, Haryanto Taslam, Pius Lustrilanang, Aang Risdianto, Andi Arif, Nezar Patria, Faisal Reza, Mugianto and Waluyojati.

The two other defendants questioned by the court Thursday – Captain Yulius Silvanus and Captain Nugroho Sulistio Budi – admitted to either taking part in the actual kidnapping of the nine activists or to interrogating them.

Budi, who was tasked with interrogating the activists, said no torture had been used, and contrary to what the activists have charged, he said those interrogated were neither blindfolded nor handcuffed. It was the interrogators who had their faces hidden, he said.

A total of 11 soldiers from the elite Kopassus special forces unit are currently facing a court martial over the kidnappings of the 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.

All the defendants were members of a special team headed by one of the defendants, Captain Bambang Kristiono. Kristiono is due for questioning when the court resumes Tuesday.

The abudctions took place ahead of a general assembly which reappointed veteran leader Suharto as president for his seventh consecutive term on March 11. Suharto resigned in May last year amid mounting public pressure and large scale riots.

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.