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Andi believes fellow activists already dead

Jakarta Post - February 21, 2000

Jakarta – Political activist Andi Arief has attracted public attention by announcing that he no longer believes 14 fellow activists who disappeared in 1998 are still alive.

"I am sure that they died a long time ago. I have no proof of this, I just want those who killed them to get what they deserve," Andi told The Jakarta Post last Monday.

Andi claims he was kidnapped by members of the Army's Special Force (Kopassus) on March 28, 1998, in front of a shop-house owned by his brother on Jl. Kiai Maja in Bandar Lampung. He was later found to be in police custody and was released.

Andi talked about his alleged kidnapping, the 1998 Tanah Tinggi apartment blast in Central Jakarta, his treatment while in police custody and his whereabouts at the time of Democratic People's Party (PRD) chief Budiman Sudjatmiko's arrest.

"Unlike what is believed, I was not lost somewhere in Indonesia. I was here during Budiman's arrest," he said. "I went to Yogya [Yogyakarta] soon after the July 27, 1996 incident. I knew they [the police] were looking for me in Jakarta, so I fled to Yogyakarta.

"Nobody was ready to back me up then. I had to defend my party. The police came looking for me in Yogyakarta. By then, I was in Cilegon, West Java. I stayed there for about six months."

State and military leaders of the New Order administration had branded Budiman and his friends communists because of their belief in social democracy. They were accused of instigating riots on July 27, 1996 near the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) headquarters on Jl. Diponegoro in Central Jakarta.

Budiman was arrested three weeks later. He was serving a 13-year jail term when he was granted amnesty on December 23 last year by President Abdurrahman Wahid.

Andi said that after he was kidnapped, National Police detectives handed his arrest warrant to his family one month later on April 23, 1998. The warrant stated that Andi had been detained at the National Police Headquarters since March 29, 1998.

Andi insists that his kidnappers handed him over to National Police Headquarters on April 14, 1998. When he refused to sign the arrest warrant, Andi says the police deprived him of food for seven days.

"I was isolated. Maj. Gen. Nurfaizi (then National Police chief of detectives and currently city police chief) says he saved me. But who knows who was really responsible for each day I spent in a National Police cell?" "I remember that my kidnappers transferred me to some institution before handing me over to the National Police ... it could have been the city military command or the Armed Forces Intelligence Body (BIA)," he said.

Maj. Gen. Nurfaizi earlier said that "fixing" the date on Andi's 1998 arrest warrant was for "Andi's benefit". "I am ready to be questioned over the kidnapping anytime. The date on the arrest warrant saved Andi's life," Nurfaizi said.

"The police were then part of the Indonesian Armed Forces (ABRI). We were under oath to always follow what the leader said," Nurfaizi said. "I still say that Andi was arrested because the police needed to question him about his possible involvement in a bomb blast in a Tanah Tinggi apartment in Central Jakarta in 1998," he said.

A homemade bomb exploded at a low-cost Tanah Tinggi apartment block on January 18, 1998. One suspect was arrested and two other people were listed as wanted for questioning. One of them, Cony, was thought to be an alias of Andi, who is chairman of the Indonesian Students Solidarity for Democracy (SMID), one of PRD's affiliates.

Andi acknowledges that he was there when the explosion occurred. "I was there when it happened. I had just returned from Cilegon. I was doing my Ashar prayer ... I was late. Then the blast occurred," Andi said. "I had nothing to do with the blast, but I was in its midst," Andi said.

Andi said his kidnappers focused their questions on PRD's ideology and its political views. "The kidnappers did not want any opposition figures like Amien (Rais, the People's Consultative Assembly Speaker), Mega (Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri) and Gus Dur (President Abdurrahman Wahid) to unite. They felt it could endanger them," Andi said. "Until the whereabouts of the 14 activists are made known, this kidnapping issue should not be allowed to die out."