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Campaign team slams tabloid for accusing Prabowo of abducting '98 activists

Kompas.com - January 12, 2024

Achmad Nasrudin Yahya, Jakarta – The Prabowo Subianto-Gibran Rakabuming Raka national election campaign team (TKN) has discovered the circulation of a tabloid called "Achtung" which says that Prabowo is the kidnapper of pro-democracy activists in 1998.

Election campaign team (TKN) deputy chairperson Habiburokhman revealed that the Achtung tabloid has been circulating widely in several major cities and claimed that the contents of the tabloid slanders Prabowo.

"The spread of the clandestine Achtung newspaper which is very massive in several major cities whose contents are slander", said Habiburokhman during a press conference at the Prabowo-Gibran TKN media center in Jakarta as quoted by Kompas TV on Friday January 12.

He said that the tabloid has been circulating for the least two or three days. During the press conference, Habiburokhman also showed a physical copy of the tabloid Achtung.

"It has been circulating for two to three days. The contents confirm that it is slander, for example 'This is the kidnapper of the '98 activists'. This is a picture of Pak [Mr] Prabowo who is slandered as a kidnapper", he said.

Habiburokhman explained that there are at least four legal facts that confirm that Prabowo has no link whatsoever with the abduction of '98 activists.

First, said Habiburokhman, there was not one witness testimony in the trial of the Tim Mawar [Rose Team] that mentioned that there was an order, direction or request from Prabowo to carry out the abduction of activists in 1998.

The Rose Team refers to a small team created by the Army's Special Forces (Kopassus) command Group IV in 1998. The Rose team was the mastermind behind the abduction of pro-democracy political activists in 1998.

The second fact, Habiburokhman said, is the Officers Honorary Council verdict Number KEP/03/VIII/1998/DKT in the examination of then Lieutenant General Prabowo Subianto.

According to Habiburokhman, the ruling was not a court verdict, and it was also not a ruling by a semi-judicial institution. "The nature of the ruling was just a recommendation", said Habiburokhman.

The third legal fact, continued Habiburokhman, is the decision by former President Suharto's successor, Indonesia's third president BJ Habibie, who was the highest commander of the TNI [the Indonesian military, then called ABRI] at the time.

In his decision, Habibie honorably discharged Prabowo from the TNI because he respected his service and devotion while serving in the TNI.

The fourth legal fact, added Habiburokhman, is that the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) in 2006 or 16 years ago was never able to complete the gross human rights violation investigation into the abduction of the activists, which was also declared incomplete by the Attorney General's Office.

"Yet according to the provisions of Article 20 of Law Number 26/2000 [on Human Rights], the time limit for Komnas HAM to conduct an investigation is only 30 days", he concluded.


Between 1997 and 1998 as many as 23 pro-democracy activists were abducted by Kopassus' Rose Team. After extended periods of detention – in many cases the victims were severely tortured – most were released although 13 remain missing and are presumed dead.

Former Kopassus commander Lieutenant General Prabowo Subianto himself has admitted to ordering the abductions claiming he was under orders from his superiors and that the kidnappings were legal. "I carried out operations that were legal at the time. If a new government said I was at fault I was here to take full responsibility", he told Al Jazeera on July 18, 2014 (https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2014/7/18/indonesia-candidate-admits-role-in-abductions).

However retired General Wiranto, who was the Armed Forces (ABRI) commander at the time, has said that Prabowo ordered the abductions on his own initiative. "I personally asked then Lt. Gen. Prabowo about who had given him the order [to abduct the activists], he admitted that it was not under the orders of the armed forces commander but, rather, on his own initiative based on his analysis of the situation", Wiranto was quoted as saying by the July 20, 2014 Jakarta Post (https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2014/06/20/prabowo-kidnapped-activists.html).

Former People's Democratic Party (PRD) leader Budiman Sudjatmiko – who is a member of Prabowo's election campaign team – has also said that Prabowo admitted to him in a 2002 interview that he had abducted the activists, but claimed he returned all of them to their respective homes and does not know the fate of those who remain missing. "(Prabowo said) 'The ones I took were all returned. I returned all of them. I don't know why some of them never returned home. But the ones I took were all released'. That was his admission", Sudjatmiko was quoted as saying by Kompas.com on July 27, 2023 (https://nasional.kompas.com/read/2023/07/27/07344591/tanyakan-isu-penculikan-ke-prabowo-budiman-sudjatmiko-beliau-bilang-sudah).

And although Prabowo has never been tried in public court over the case, a leaked document on the findings of a military tribunal's investigation into the case in 1998 – which resulted in Prabowo being dishonorably, not honorably discharged from the military – states that he was found guilty of illegally instructing soldiers from the Team Rose and the Merpati Task Force to arrest and detain activists from the PRD.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "TKN Temukan Koran 'Achtung' yang Sebut Prabowo Penculik Aktivis '98".]

Source: https://nasional.kompas.com/read/2024/01/12/19584541/tkn-temukan-koran-achtung-yang-sebut-prabowo-penculik-aktivis-9