Thu, 10 Jul 2003

71 alleged rebels to be charged with treason

Nani Farida and Aan Suryana, The Jakarta Post, Banda Aceh/Lhokseumawe

While the military offensive to crush the armed rebellion in Aceh continues, legal action against alleged separatists started on Wednesday with at least 71 suspects facing charges of treason.

The police in Banda Aceh said that so far they had handed over evidence on the 71 suspects' involvement in separatist activities to the local prosecutor's office.

Provincial police spokesman Adj. Sr. Comr. Sayed Husainy said that the 71 rebels who were detained in the city and several regencies in the province would be charged with trying to topple the legitimate government, as well as armed criminal activity.

Most of the suspects and detainees have been interrogated both by the police and the military without being accompanied by lawyers. Only a very few of them actually expressly waived their right to have a lawyer by their side.

The police statement made it clear that the suspects would stand trial in the district court. This follows widespread rumors that they would be indicted under the antiterrorism law, which carries the death penalty.

Hundreds of other alleged rebels and GAM supporters who have been arrested since the military offensive to quell the separatist movement was launched on May 19 are still undergoing military interrogation in Banda Aceh, while, according to the police, those voluntarily surrendering to the security authorities were being subjected to "special indoctrination" before being set free.

Among the alleged GAM supporters in detention are a number of civil servants and councillors, who the authorities say politically and financially supported the armed rebellion, which has lasted for around 26 years and claimed more than 12,000 lives.

The government, which has deployed around 40,000 military and police personnel to Aceh, claims at least ten more rebels were killed on Wednesday in separate clashes with security forces in the province. This follows a claim that 18 rebels were killed on Tuesday and 12 others over the weekend.

According to military figures, a total of 403 rebels had been killed and more than 800 others arrested as of Wednesday.

Military operation spokesman Lt. Col Ahmad Yani Basuki said the ten rebels had been killed in six clashes in five different regencies.

Despite earlier claims that it controlled 100% of Aceh, the military now says it only controls 75 percent of Aceh's territory, but continues to insist that it has the support of the majority of Aceh's four million people in its effort to crush the separatist movement.

"The results of our evaluation so far shows that the TNI has put 800 rebels who were killed or arrested out of action, and most of GAM's physical and non-physical facilities have been destroyed," Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ryamizard Ryacudu said in Bandung, West Java, on Wednesday.

Despite these claims, he nevertheless said the war would likely last for a long time to come as the military was facing guerrillas who were staging an armed rebellion in inaccessible areas.

"Of the most importance is that we have won the Acehnese people's support because more and more people are daring to oppose the separatist movement," he said.