Tue, 04 Sep 2001

Bimantoro challenged by officers in legal battle

JAKARTA (JP): The legal battle between eight middle-ranking police officers and National Police chief Gen. Surojo Bimantoro began on Monday at the South Jakarta District Court.

The hearings were conducted in four separate rooms at the South Jakarta District Court with four judges.

During the hearing, the judges ordered the National Police not to restrict the plaintiffs' lawyers from meeting their clients. The officers' lawyers told the court that they were prohibited by certain officers at the National Police Headquarters from meeting their clients.

The court was hearing the lawsuits filed by Sr. Comr. Alfons Loemau, Sr. Comr. Salikin Moenits, Sr. Comr. Parlindungan Sinaga, Sr. Comr. Banjarnahor, Sr. Comr. Nurdin Umar, Sr. Comr. Bambang Widodo, Sr. Comr. Badaruzzaman Hidir and Adj. Comr. Herman Kotto against Bimantoro for ordering their arrest and detention for alleged insubordination.

Johnson Panjaitan, chairman of a team of lawyers grouped under the Police Professional Solicitors Team, said that the officers refiled the suits against Bimantoro because the latter did not give a positive response after they withdrew their previous lawsuits.

Instead of releasing them, the police chief kept them under detention at the Police Mobile Brigade Headquarters in Kelapa Dua, south of here, he said.

The plaintiffs' lawyers argued that the National Police could not charge the eight officers by exercising articles under the military criminal code relating to abuse of power.

Based on the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) Decree No. VII/MPR/2000 Article 7 paragraph 4, the National Police must abide by civilian laws and regulations and not military rules.

"Any violations of the law by police officers should be taken before a civil court and not a military tribunal," lawyer Irfan Melayu told the hearing of Alfons Loemau.

The lawyers claimed that the procedures the police employed in the detention and questioning of the plaintiffs were "incorrect".

The warrant for the arrest of the plaintiffs which was dated July 22 and was made under the orders of Bimantoro, who was no longer the National Police chief.

President Abdurrahman Wahid had issued Presidential Decree No. 49/2001 suspending Bimantoro as the National Police chief on July 1.

"The order by Bimantoro, who claimed to retain his position as National Police chief, should be annulled by law," Irfan remarked.

Meanwhile, the team of lawyers from the National Police headquarters insisted that the MPR Decree No. VII/MPR/2000 Article 7 paragraph 4 did not specify a concrete explanation that the National Police must abide by civilian laws and regulations.

It did not stipulate who should investigate, prosecute or try police officers who violated the law, according to the lawyers.

The National Police are still under the Military court according to Law No. 31/1997 Article 5 paragraph 1 about military court and Law No. 28/1997 Article 5 paragraph 1 which states that the National Police are part of the Indonesian Military, said Sr. Comr. Suyitno, a lawyer from the National Police headquarters.

The lawyers claimed that the plaintiffs' lawsuit was "error in persona" since the accused should not be Bimantoro but their own supervisors.

"We (the National Police lawyers) questioned the role of the plaintiff's lawyers since they should have a permit or an order from the officers' supervisors," Suyitno told the hearing of Alfons.

They asked the court to suspend the hearings because the cases should have been handled by a military court and not a civilian court.

The hearings will resume on Tuesday.

After the hearings, Johnson told reporters that his clients had been physically and mentally abused by a police officer during their detention.

"I saw a police officer slap Bambang Widodo in public while saying that he had made the situation worse," he said.

He also regretted that the plaintiffs, as middle-ranking officers, were detained in Kelapa Dua, a place for lower ranking officers.

The plaintiffs' families attended the hearings to support the plaintiffs lawsuit. Some of them carried posters reading "the detention is unlawful".

The plaintiffs are being detained for allegedly staging a revolt against Bimantoro as they, along with dozens of middle- ranking officials, held a discussion over Bimantoro's defiant stance against then president Abdurrahman Wahid on July 9. (04)