APSN Banner

Trial of Kopassus officers rigged

Agence France Presse - February 24, 1999

Jakarta – An Indonesian rights groups on Wednesday alleged that a military court martial of 11 officers was being rigged to avoid prosecuting a son-in-law of former president Suharto, a release said.

"From the ongoing trial process it is evident that the judge and the prosecution have not carried out their functions as tools of the law," a Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) statement said.

The release said the military trial of officers from the Kopassus special forces on charges of abducting nine pro-democracy activists in the last months of the Suharto regime was conducted to avoid prosecuting Lieutenant General Prabowo Subianto, who during the kidnappings headed the force. Prabowo is married to one of Suharto's daughters.

"Based on the facts we concluded that the legal proceedings against the 11 Kopassus defendants ... is no more than a legal play to eliminate the responsibility of Lieutenant General Prabowo Subianto, who was most responsible for the operation," it added.

The release, signed by committee members Bambang Sugiyanto and Ori Rahman, came a day after the highest ranking of the 11 accused officiers told the court that he had set up a team of soldiers on his own initiative to abduct the nine activists.

The accused, Major Bambang Kristiono, said he set up the team to investigate "radical groups" allegedly seeking to disrupt the convention of the country's highest legislative assembly in March 1998 which was to re-elect Suharto.

"Following military chain of command it would have been impossible for a mid-ranking officer to carry out a special operation without a superior's order," the release said, especially as it had continued for months.

The rights groups charged that neither the judge nor the prosecutor had ever pursued questioning of the witnesses beyond their given statements.

The nine activists were the only ones to resurface out of 23 activists who went missing early last year. One was later found dead and the 13 others are still missing.

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

The officers' council discharged Prabowo and two other senior officers for their role in the abduction and torture of activists. The court martial will reconvene on March 9 to hear sentencing demands by the prosecution.

It was the second time the commision had condemned the court martial as a farce. In January commission head, Munir said it was "impossible" given the rigid hierarchical nature of the military for the 11 accused to have acted on their own.