Wed, 13 Aug 2003

Aceh referendum fighter goes on trial for treason

Nani Farida, The Jakarta Post, Banda Aceh, Aceh

A proindependence Acehnese woman activist went on trial at the Banda Aceh District Court on Tuesday on charges of treason that could lead to a 20 year prison sentence if she is convicted.

In the meantime, security authorities insisted they would continue to intensify their hunt for separatist rebels as part of the integrated operation to restore security and order in the conflict-ridden province.

Cut Nurasyikin, 48, a fighter for a self-determination referendum for Aceh was indicted under Articles 55 and 64 of the Criminal Code for sowing enmity and hatred against the legitimate government and campaigning for a referendum for Aceh's independence.

In the court session presided over by Judge Hamdan Hasibuan, government prosecutor Muhibbudin said that he had as evidence the defendant's antigovernment speech delivered to a gathering organized by the Aceh Referendum Information Center (SIRA) in the city on Nov. 9, 1999.

"During the meeting, the defendant said that if Aceh could not gain independence through a referendum, a war had to be waged. Besides, she also said that the Acehnese people must be freed from Indonesia's occupation because the Acehnese people have sovereignty over their own territory," the prosecutor quoted the defendant as saying in the speech.

According to the prosecutor, besides fully supporting the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), the defendant was also one of former members of the joint committee supervising the peace talks in the province in 2000.

Nurasyikin's lawyer Darwis who declined to present his defense in the first session, said he would do it in the next session.

"It is the most minor treason case tried in the district court and it is similar to the case of SIRA Chairman Muhammad Nazar who is serving a five-year prison sentence in the city.

The session was adjourned until next Tuesday to hear witnesses' testimony.

In a related development, the court also rejected the objection by five former GAM negotiators that the court did not have the authority to try them.

The court said it had the authority to try the five former GAM peace negotiators who were indicted on charges of terrorism and treason.

Three of the five defendants, Tengku Sofyan Ibrahim Tiba, Nashiruddin bin Ahmad and Teuku Kamaruzzaman, said in the previous trial that they should be tried in Jakarta because all peace talks they mediated were between the Indonesian government and GAM in Sweden.

The police said that they would continue to interrogate suspected GAM members in an attempt to get information on rebel hiding places in the province.

Spokesman for the Aceh Provincial Police Adj. Sr. Comr. Sayed Hoesainy said that since the launching on May 19 of the military operation, 147 rebels had been arrested and 156 others had surrendered voluntarily to the police and the military.

"Besides gaining necessary information on rebels' hiding places, the police will also bring them to court," he said, adding that the dossiers of 205 suspected rebels had been submitted to the government prosecutor's office while nine other cases that involved 13 GAM rebels in Central Aceh had already been tried.

Banda Aceh Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Alfon warned city residents against possible terror attacks by rebels following the finding of a homemade bomb in Ateuk Pahlawan subdistrict in the city on Tuesday.

"Over the last two weeks, three bombs were found in different places in the city. The bombs were reportedly planted by rebels in their attempt to disrupt the observance of Independence Day that falls on Sunday," he said. The bombs were defused by the provincial police bomb squad.

He added that the martial law administration had deployed more than 1,100 soldiers and police to beef up security in the provincial capital on the eve of Independence Day.