Sat, 06 Mar 1999

Brutal treatment of protesters and journalists deplored

JAKARTA (JP): The Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI) and the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) condemned on Friday security personnel's brutal treatment of student demonstrators and journalists.

PBHI said in a statement that it would sue the Jakarta military commander and the city police chief for the security personnel's alleged brutality.

"We demand that the chiefs of the security personnel responsible for the incident be fired. We also call for a thorough investigation of the incident," the statement said.

Dozens of students, three photographers and one journalist were injured in violent clashes between protesting students and security personnel in Central Jakarta on Thursday.

AJI strongly condemned the beating of the photographers and journalist, who had shown their press cards.

"The journalists were only there to record the facts and did not intend to undermine the Armed Forces. Whether the security personnel deserve condemnation or praise depends on how they behave," the statement said.

The journalists beaten by security personnel were reporter Toto Irianto from Pos Kota daily, Jawa Pos daily's photographer Agus Wahyudi and Detak tabloid's photographer Rusman. AFP photographer Eddy Purnomo also suffered minor injuries after being hit by stones allegedly thrown by students.

At Husada Hospital in West Jakarta, Toto Irianto said on Friday that he was beaten even after he had shown his press card and shouted that he was a reporter. He quoted a soldier as saying, "It is you people who drive us into a corner (through your reports)." The soldier even challenged Toto to write down his name.

Iin Farida, Toto's wife, said a spokesman from the Army had come to visit Toto. The spokesman expressed apologies and said that the soldiers were only human. "I told him that this incident does not concern only my husband and this should never happen again," Iin told The Jakarta Post.

Toto, a father of two, was beaten on the back of his head and kicked in his legs and back.

The Jakarta chapter of the Indonesian Journalists Association (PWI) also deplored the incident. It urged all parties to avoid violence and uphold the principle of mutual respect, especially in dealing with journalists working in the field.

Meanwhile, 17 students were found guilty by the Central Jakarta District Court on Friday and fined Rp 2,000 (25 U.S. cents) each for participating in an illegal rally on Jl. Proklamasi in Central Jakarta. One student was found not guilty.

The 17 students from various universities grouped under the United Students Committee denied that they took part in the rally. They claimed that they were arrested on the campus of ABA- ABI Foreign Language and Banking College on Jl. Matraman Raya, East Jakarta at 4 p.m.

Although two police officers who testified at the trial could not identify the students, the presiding judges, Judge Pangeran Siregar and Judge Hupoyo, found 17 of the defendants guilty.

Dozens of the defendants' colleagues booed as the judges' read out their verdicts.

At least 200 students attended the trial. Some of them waited outside the courtroom, singing and giving speeches.

The defendants immediately decided to appeal the judges' verdicts.

"This was an engineered trial to end student protests," one of the students' lawyers, Pablo Christalo, said.

Pablo, from the Student Movement Lawyer Team, said the judges did not consider the students' testimonies and based their decisions only on the police dossiers.

He also said the two police officers, identified as Yustiansah and Sarwanto, gave contradictory testimonies.

Yustiansah told the court that the students were arrested on Jl. Proklamasi, while Sarwanto said that the students were arrested on Jl. Matraman, he said.

The students, who were accompanied by 20 lawyers, told the court that they were beaten and kicked by soldiers and riot police at the ABA-ABI campus.

Two of the defendants suffered bruises around their eyes and still seemed to be in pain as they covered their eyes with towels during the trial.

"We don't deal with the police's treatment of you. We just examine whether you took part in the rally or not," Judge Siregar said.

Heri Julianto, one of the students on trial, was found not guilty.

Seventeen of the defendants were found guilty of violating Law No. 9/1998 on freedom of speech and Article 510 of the Criminal Code on conducting a rally without police permit.

The defendants arrived at the court at 1:30 p.m., where they were greeted by their supporters who had arrived at 10 a.m.

Azet Hutabarat, one of the students' lawyers, said on Friday that the 18 defendants were among the 30 students arrested during Thursday's rally.

He said one female senior high school student, identified as Saraswati, was released on Friday because she was only 15 years old, while the other 11 students were still being detained at city police headquarters.

Nine of the 11 students were charged with violating Article 170 of the Criminal Code on vandalism, while the remaining two students were charged with violating Article 160 of the Criminal Code on slandering government officials, he said.

Meanwhile, City police chief Maj. Gen. Noegroho Djajoesman said on Friday that security personnel had to disperse Thursday's rally because the students had not given prior notification to local police.

"I don't think it's difficult to notify local police before staging a protest. We'll help secure the event and manage traffic so as not to disrupt public order," Noegroho said. (jun/emf)