Sat, 08 Aug 1998

Prabowo, Muchdi 'responsible for kidnappings'

JAKARTA (JP): The chief of the Officers Honor Council, Gen. Subagyo Hadisiswoyo, revealed yesterday that Lt. Gen. Prabowo Subianto and Maj. Gen. Muchdi Purwopranjono either gave the instructions for abductions of political activists in the past year or were aware of their issuance.

Subagyo, who is also Army Chief of Staff, said testimony from other officers before the council showed the two former chiefs of the Army's Special Force (Kopassus) were responsible for the abductions.

"The testimony of the other officers showed Prabowo gave the instructions. He, therefore, must be held responsible," he said.

When pressed by reporters whether higher ranked Armed Forces (ABRI) officers had also been aware of the kidnappings, Subagyo said: "Just wait until Prabowo testifies Monday."

He explained several categories of mistakes an official might have committed in the abductions. "(The kidnappings) could be a procedural mistake, a mistake on the part of the leader (of an unit) or (they could have been committed because of) the character of the highest military official who gave the instruction.

"In this case, Chairawan and the other officers, who are lower in rank, were only carrying out the instructions of their commanders."

Col. Chairawan was a former chief of Kopassus' intelligence operations. He is the third highest ranked Kopassus officer, after Prabowo and Muchdi, under the investigation of the ABRI- initiated honor council. Ten other Kopassus soldiers will soon be court-martialled for the abductions.

On Muchdi's role in the kidnappings, Subagyo said the officer must have fully understood his authority and duties as a Kopassus commandant-general.

"He was the Kopassus commander. Surely he knew what he must or must not do."

The council started the investigation into the kidnappings Tuesday, a day after its establishment was announced by Armed Forces chief Gen. Wiranto. Chairawan and Muchdi had both been questioned, while Prabowo has so far appeared before the council as a witness.

Subagyo said, for the sake of obtaining accurate information about the kidnappings, the council would also hear from the Armed Forces fact-finding team and other teams established by various rights groups.

The council inspected on Wednesday several locations, believed to be the sites where the abductees were once held, at the Kopassus headquarters in Cijantung, East Jakarta.


Subagyo made clear yesterday the council was not responsible for determining the officers' guilt, which was the authority of a military tribunal.

The council will submit the results of its investigation, along with recommendation for further action, to the Armed Forces commander.

He also called on the public to trust that the council would be independent in its investigation of the abductions.

"Insya Allah (God willing), the council will be objective in handling the case and issuing its recommendations," he said.

He promised that although the investigation was conducted in closed chambers, the council would not withhold information to the public when its findings were completed.

"The council is doing its best to provide the Armed Forces chief with accurate recommendations, so that he will make correct decision over the case," he said.

He also said the council followed the "rules of the game" while conducting the investigation, including meeting the officers' rights to present their own witnesses and to be assisted by an associate in the questioning.

He dismissed speculation the council also investigated a rumored coup attempt waged by the Kopassus troops the night after president Soeharto announced his resignation on May 21.

"No, it (the reported coup attempt) was not true. And the council does not focus its investigation on rumors. We are only probing the case of missing activists," he said.

Speaking as a former Kopassus chief, Subagyo said he regretted that the case had ruined the image of the Army's elite force.

"I love Kopassus but I am really concerned that several Kopassus officers had to be put under the honor council's investigation and others tried by the military tribunal," he said. (imn)