Fri, 26 Sep 2003

12 soldiers court-martialled amid Aceh war

Nani Farida and Tengku Agam Muzakkir, The Jakarta Post, Banda Aceh/Lhokseumawe

A military court in Aceh began prosecuting 12 Indonesian soldiers on Thursday for alleged physical abuse of Acehnese villagers in the in the province, which is enduring its fourth month of war.

Military prosecutor Maj. (Navy) Maryanto Bandji told the court in Lhokseumawe that the 12 defendants had assaulted some 50 residents in Dewantara village in North Aceh at the end of August, a violation of the military law that carries a maximum of two years and eight months in jail.

The 12 soldiers are Chief. Sgt. Irwan Triyono, First. Sgt. Suriadi, Second Sgt. Endang, First. Corp. Tri Tjahyono, Second. Corp. Dede Rahman, Second Pvt. Puji Santoso, Second Pvt. Mohammad Yusuf, Second Pvt. Abdul Wahid, Second Pvt. Yunus Do Abas, Second Pvt. Iyan Cahyana, Second Pvt. Budianto and Second Pvt. Iman Kuswara.

The prosecutor said the abuse was committed after the soldiers thought that the residents had lied to them about the whereabouts of a prominent rebel believed to be hiding in the area.

Lt. Col. Achmad Yani Basuki, spokesman for the Aceh military operations command (Koops), said that the assault began as 12 members of Prabu Kiansantang infantry battalion from West Java were looking for Saiful Bahri, the suspected area chief of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), on Aug. 31.

When they arrived at a coffee shop in Glumpang Sulu Barat village, they asked local people where Saiful was staying.

They people said they knew nothing about the whereabouts of the suspect. "Minutes later, the soldiers saw a man leave another coffee shop in the area, and drive away on a motorcycle," said Yani.

"Based on that they somehow concluded that the villagers were telling lies and became enraged and beat them," said Yani.

The trial was adjourned until Friday.

During the first four months of the major military operation in the troubled province, more than 10 soldiers have been court- martialled for similar abuses and rape.

Meanwhile, AFP reported that government prosecutors sought jail terms of 16 and 15 years for two rebel negotiators accused of terrorism and treason.

Tengku Muhammad Usman and Amni bin Ahmad Marzuki of the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) are among five rebel negotiators facing the charges at Banda Aceh district court.

Both men should be imprisoned because they are guilty of terrorism and "taking part in an act of crime against the state in the form of treason," prosecutors told the court in separate hearings.

The maximum penalty for terrorism is death.

Usman, Amni and three other rebel negotiators were arrested on May 19 as a major military offensive against rebels began in the province.

Syafruddin, the chief prosecutor for Amni's case, said the 37- year-old negotiator had "intentionally" given aid and facilities to GAM members.

On Tuesday prosecutors recommended prison terms of 18 and 16 years respectively for two other negotiators, Sofyan Ibrahim Tiba and Nashiruddin bin Ahmed.

The sentence recommendation for the fifth man, Teuku Kamaruzzaman, was indefinitely postponed on Thursday due to his illness.