More Indonesian activists on trial

By James Balowski

On February 6, People's Democratic Party (PRD) activists Ken Budha Kusumandaru, Victor Da Costa and Ignatius Putut Arintoko, who are being tried in Jakarta for subversion, presented a protest letter to court. Signed by PRD secretary general Petrus Hari Hariyanto, the letter objected to ``evidence'' from 20 witnesses which was read to the judge by the public prosecutor. The ``testimonies'' were based entirely on preliminary investigation reports (BAP).

In many of the previous hearings, prosecution witnesses against 13 PRD members, including PRD president Budiman Sujatmiko and Indonesian Centre for Labour Struggles (PPBI) president Dita Sari, have been repeatedly warned not to deviate from their BAPs. Witnesses have frequently asserted that the police or military forced them into making the statements. In other cases, the prosecution's own witnesses have painted a favourable picture of the PRD and its actions.

The presiding judge accepted the letter but refused to allow it to be read in court.

On February 7, it was announced that the Jakarta High Court had returned the police's case files against Father Romo Sandyawan SJ, director of the Jakarta Social Institute, and his brother Benny Sumardi on the grounds that they were ``inadequate''. Both are charged with hiding Budiman and his companions last August after the military ordered all PRD members to be arrested.

Meanwhile, on February 4 a group of East Timorese students held a protest action at the Surabaya State Court in East Java in support of PRD activists Dita Sari and Pontoh.

The demonstrators handed out leaflets supporting the PRD and the formation of a shadow cabinet by Ramos Horta. Similar protests were organised by the group on January 30.

The trial of Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) activist Andi Syahputra, arrested during a police raid on a printing house last October and charged with insulting the head of state, has also begun in the South Jakarta district court. It is alleged that Syahputra was caught with copies of the banned magazine Suara Independen; if convicted, he could face six years' jail.

The AJI was set up in August 1994 to promote press freedom following the banning of three leading publications in June of that year. Since then, the regime has forced editors of a number of publications to transfer, demote or sack AJI members.

Prosecutors have demanded that a court ignore an appeal by defence lawyers and continue the trial of three Muslim radicals charged with sowing hatred against the government.

All three are members of the Indonesian Islamic State organisation, which allegedly aims to establish an Islamic state in Indonesia. They could face eight years in jail. The court will decide on February 19 whether to try the case.

In other developments, the ousted leader of the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI), Megawati Sukarnoputri, has rejected a summons by police to appear for questioning over a January 10 gathering at her house to celebrate the PDI's anniversary.

The authorities claim that the meeting was an ``illegal political gathering'' and that only Suryadi, her government-backed replacement, was entitled to hold such a celebration. Around 100 supporters demonstrated outside the South Jakarta police station when Megawati's lawyers met with police.

On February 6, four Megawati supporters were sentenced to jail terms of six to 15 days each for throwing rocks at and breaking the windows of a police station during the July 27 riots in Jakarta.

On January 28, the trial of PDI parliamentarian Aberson Sihalolo began. Sihalolo is accused of insulting the president during a speech at the party's headquarters last July in which he allegedly said that President Suharto had ``seized our independence and we have become colonised again''. Sihalolo has said that he had been partially misquoted and that his comments ``were taken out of context''.

On January 27, Jakarta daily Kompas reported that the Supreme Court has rejected Permadi's appeal against a four-year jail sentence for blasphemy after allegations he called the prophet Muhammad a dictator during a seminar at the University of Gajah Mada in Yogyakarta, central Java. Permadi claimed that tapes of the seminar were ``doctored'' and leaked by the authorities. Permadi, an outspoken opposition figure popularly known as a ``paranormal'', first came to the attention of authorities after he predicted Suharto's downfall.

Freedom in Indonesia! Free all political prisoners!
Defend the PRD!
No military ties with Suharto dictatorship!
Free East Timor! Free Xanana Gusmao!

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