Wed, 24 May 2000

Aceh convict arrested for marijuana possession

BANDA ACEH, Aceh (JP): One of the 25 convicted murderers involved in last year's massive killings in West Aceh may have his jail sentence extended after he, along with a military police officer who escorted him to Iskandar Muda Airport, was found in possession of 5.5 kilograms of dried marijuana.

Teuku Umar Military Commander Col. Syarifudin Tippe and chief of Banda Aceh military police Maj. Soekir confirmed the arrest on Tuesday and said the two officers were currently being detained at the Banda Aceh military police detention center, awaiting further investigation. The arrest was made on Sunday.

"The two will be court-martialled. It's a shame for them to be caught this way. It's also possible other military members maybe involved," Syarifudin said.

The prisoner, Second Sgt. Hadi Pratoyo was a member of the Army's Strategic Reserves Command (Kostrad) and was sentenced to eight and a half years in jail along with nine other fellow Kostrad members on Friday. Military police officer Second Lt. Andi Suci was arrested by an Air Force officer who conducted a luggage search before the two left for Jakarta.

Officials at the airport tipped off journalists about Sunday's arrest, but an official statement was only made available on Tuesday.

"The two officers were traveling with a group of criminals in the Bantaqiah murder case. The group was heading to Jakarta where they will probably stay until the tribunal to hear if their appeal is ready," an Air Force lieutenant who requested anonymity said on Tuesday.

He said the two officers were caught red-handed by senior officers who flanked the group aboard a Hercules military transport plane.

Two kilograms dried of ganja were found wrapped in paper in Pratoyo's bag while another 3.5 kilograms of marijuana were discovered in a handbag belonging to Suci, who was also a platoon commander of Banda Aceh military police unit.

The rest of a band of convicted men continued their trip to Jakarta on Saturday.

Upon hearing of the arrest, local leaders, however, revealed their suspicion that the marijuana probably came from Mataie military compound, around 60 kilometers south of Banda Aceh, where the defendants were detained during the Bantaqiah trial.

Aceh has long been known as a home to vast marijuana plantations. Struggles for control over supplies of the drugs have added to the unlawful state in the strife-torn province.

The unprecedented joint military-civilian trial sentenced on Wednesday 25 defendants, one civilian and 24 soldiers, to between eight and a half years and 10 years in jail for the killing of Islamic teacher Tengku Bantaqiah and his students during an antirebel raid on July 23 last year.

Also on Tuesday, a policeman named Second Sgt. Juwarno was in a critical condition after being shot at about 2:30 p.m. by an armed gang in Lamyong village of Syah Kuala district, about six kilometers east of Banda Aceh, local police chief Lt. Col. Sayed Husaini said. (50/edt)