Tue, 04 Sep 2001

Abducted 'TVRI' crew members to be freed

MEDAN, North Sumatra (JP): The wife of one of the three television crew members who were taken hostage by the Aceh Free Movement (GAM) on Aug. 5, has expressed optimism that her husband would be freed soon.

Bungaria, the wife of Bahrum Pohan, said in an interview with Tha Jakarta Post on Monday that she had learned the news from the manager of the Aceh office of state-owned television station TVRI and the head of technical affairs.

"We have good news for you. Your husband will soon be released," Bungaria quoted Armen, the head of technical affairs, as saying in a recent telephone conversation.

According to Armen, Bungaria said, the (planned) release of her husband was linked to a deal struck between the Aceh TVRI station and GAM last week. "He (Armen) didn't tell me anything about the details of the deal."

TVRI crew members Bahrum Pohan, 40, Kesuma Wijaya, 39, and M. Suhairi, 39, were on a public bus traveling to Banda Aceh from Medan when a group of GAM members intercepted them on Aug. 5, during a routine search conducted by the separatist group.

Pohan, works at the Blang Kejeren TV station and Suhairi at the Calang station, while Kesuma is based in Blang Pidie. They are all technicians, and not cameramen or reporters.

They had been posted at the Medan TVRI station for 18 months.

The coverage coordinator of the Medan TVRI station, Dame Situmorang, said that "the three men were never interested in politics".

"Pak Armen did not tell me about the deal, but he said that, according to GAM, my husband and the other two were declared innocent," Bungaria said.

GAM, which accused the three men of spying, also abducted Razali Usman, a legislative councillor of East Aceh, on Aug. 20.

Ishak Daud, the GAM spokesman for Peureulak, East Aceh, had earlier said the four would be freed if they were found innocent.

She said she had not communicated with her husband since he was abducted, adding that she believed the other two housewives had not spoken with their spouses either.

"We've been very worried about their safety and health. My children always ask about their father," said Bungaria.

Pohan has three children, while Kesuma has one child. There is no information on Suhairi, whose wife lives in Langkat and is reportedly ill.

When interviewed by the Post, Kesuma's wife, Anna, was unable to answer any questions. She just wept. (42/sur)