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Long prison sentences for insulting President Megawati
Rakyat Merdeka – June 12, 2003
Jakarta – Who knows why, but four political prisoners sentenced for insulting the head of state, have still to obtain a copy of their convictions.
This is even though the period of their punishment is almost over. The four political prisoners have been threatened that they will never be released from jail. “I felt shocked, how could this have happened. If the [authorities] are being negligent or forgetting the time for the last year, then those political prisoners who insult Mega [Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri] could stay in jail for a very long time”, the secretary general of the Popular Youth Movement (Gerakan Pemuda Kerakyatan, GPK), Ricky Tamba, told Rakyat Merdeka last night.
The four GPK activists were arrested in June 2002. They were brought before the Jakarta State Court and charged with insulting Megawati. One of the four activist, Nanang is a street traders at the Cipulir market, Muzakir is a street musician, Maryadi is a student of the Indonesian Administrative Foundation and Abu Bakar Bilal is an activist with the Cultural Network Jaker.
According to Tamba, the court verdict dossiers should have been sent directly to prison officials as soon as the sentence was handed down. However, he continued, this was not done by the court. If this is intentional, then it is a violation of the law.
He said that the four would end their period of detention on June 20 this year. However because the court verdict dossier has yet to be received, they are concerned that they will not be able to leave Selemba jail. “Moreover, the officials at the jail are extremely bureaucratic and if they do not have the dossier they will not release prisoners”, explained Tamba.
The activists have been in the cell since June 2002 when their status was as defendants before the South Jakarta state court, after they held a demonstration in front of the presidential palace where they trampled on an burnt photographs of Megawati and Vice-president Hamzah Haz.
Tamba said they had repeatedly asked why had it come to this point. Was it because their case involved insulting Megawati and therefore their release would be difficult. During the period of former President B.J. Habibie, political prisoners who had been convicted of insulting the head of state were given amnesties.
Tamba also said that the officials who uphold the law should work professionally and independently, that they should not be influenced by political power or money. If this continues it is difficult to believe that reformasi in the legal field can be upheld.
“We are concerned that the government is becoming more repressive towards groups which criticise them”, he said. GPK added Tamba, will take political and legal actions if the copy of the verdict is not provided. For example by launching a civil action against the court.
This has also happened in a number of other parts in the country. In Central Sulawesi there are a number of activists who have now been release from jail, who received the same sentence, that is one years’ jail. However he continued, in Solo [Central Java] it is rather different, the judges there have sentenced activists accused of insulting the president with three years jail. “It’s strange, because the charges are the same”, he said. (RMA)
[Translated by James Balowski.]