Tue, 10 Jun 2003

Court martial prosecutes soldier over Semanggi case

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The court martial began on Monday for an Army soldier who was accused of shooting dead a student during a rally against the state security bill near the Semanggi clover-leaf here in September 1999.

First Pvt. Buhari Sastro Tua Putty, 27, is one of three members of the Army Strategic Reserves Command (Kostrad) who is standing trial on charges of reckless killing under the Criminal Code, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

The other defendants are Lt. Col. Ediwan Prabowo and First. Lt. Timuardi, who will be tried separately. The dates for their trials remain undecided.

The trials followed public clamor for justice sought for those responsible for the incident and previous shootings of demonstrators in Semanggi and Trisakti University in 1998 at the human rights tribunal.

An investigation conducted by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) found crimes against humanity had been committed in the three incidents, but the findings were rejected by the House of Representatives.

Law No. 26/1999 on human rights court says a human rights tribunal is set up at the request of the House.

Buhari was accused of shooting dead University of Indonesia student Yap Yun Hap without instructions from his supervisor during widespread protests in Jakarta on Sept. 24, 1999, the indictment said.

Another six civilians and a police officer died from gunshot wounds and another 112 people, including 30 police officers, were injured during widespread protests against the state security bill on Sept. 23 and Sept. 24. The bill was endorsed by the House on Sept. 23, but president B.J. Habibie decided not to pass the bill into law following the incident. Up to now the bill remains ineffective.

The bill was widely opposed for fear that it would emulate the now-defunct 1963 Subversion Law which was used by the New Order regime to suppress political opponents.

It remains unclear whether there will be trials for the deaths of the seven other people.

Defendant Buhari, who remains free, was assisting riot troops to handle the protests against the bill.

According to the indictment, the riot team was supplied with 11,200 live bullets of 5.56 millimeter caliber, 6,000 rubber bullets and 1,500 blanks.

The riot team was on convoy from nearby BNI 1946 building on Jl. Sudirman to the Jakarta Police Headquarters at about 8:20 p.m. on the day of incident. Some protesters hurled stones and Molotov cocktails at the troops in the Setiabudi area, also on Jl. Sudirman.

Defendant Ediwan, who was leading the convoy, ordered his subordinates to prepare marksmen. Timuardi later picked three soldiers, including Buhari.

Ediwan ordered his subordinates to fire warning shots to disperse the protesters.

Later on near Atmajaya Catholic University near Semanggi, a group of protesters threw stones and Molotov cocktails at the convoy. Buhari, who claimed to hear shots from a car in front of him, opened fire at the protesters without orders from his supervisor, the indictment said.

"The defendant felt uneasy and tired of the protesters," said chief prosecutor Lt. Col. D. Djohari.

A military court had earlier sentenced a number of low-ranking policemen over the 1998 Semanggi shootings to between three and seven months in prison and discharged them from the police force.