Wed, 16 Jul 2003

Five ex-negotiators of GAM to stand trial

Nani Farida, The Jakarta Post, Banda Aceh, Aceh

Five former negotiators of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), along with dozens of other suspected rebels, will go on trial immediately for their alleged involvement in acts of terrorism and subversion.

Spokesman for the government prosecutor's office in Banda Aceh Zainal Saed said here on Tuesday that his office had appointed 18 prosecutors to the trial, which would open next week at the latest.

"We will use Articles 13 and 15 of the Government Regulation in Lieu of Law No. 1/2000 and Articles 106 and 107 on subversion from the Criminal Code, which carry a maximum death sentence, to prosecute the suspects. We have yet to decide upon the sentence we will be seeking, because we are still studying their dossiers," he said.

The five ex-negotiators -- Teungku Sofyan Ibrahim Tiba, Teuku Kamaruzzaman, Teungku Nashiruddin bin Ahmed, Teungku Muhamad Usman and Teungku Amni Marzuki -- were arrested only hours after the government imposed martial law and launched its military operation to crush the separatist movement on May 19.

The five were arrested at Sultan Iskandar Muda Blang Bintang airport in Banda Aceh as they were trying to escape overseas.

Sofyan Tiba, along with the four other ex-negotiators, were held at the provincial police jail for security reasons. The five said they were in good health and that they were accompanied by a legal team from the Foundation of the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (YLBHI) during police interrogation.

Zainal explained that the five were allegedly involved in provoking rebels to carry out terrorism and violence to topple the Jakarta government, and that they were allegedly involved in the series of bomb attacks this year in Aceh, the North Sumatra capital of Medan and Jakarta.

"Their cases are based on material evidence such as photos, GAM badges and many confidential documents confiscated from the suspects," he said.

The police submitted on Tuesday the case files of the five, along with 23 others', to prosecutors.

Spokesman for Aceh Provincial Police Sr. Comr. Sayed Husaini said the 23 were from a total of 41 suspected rebels the police had interrogated, and would stand trial soon.

He said that the police had so far arrested 249 suspected rebels, including 14 handed over by the military and 19 others who voluntarily surrendered to the police.

"All of them will be brought to court," he said, adding that the military was still interrogating hundreds of rebels, including 99 in the provincial capital.

The legal process is part of the military offensive to crush the Acehnese separatist movement that was launched in response to "past injustice and human right abuses" by Jakarta in the resource-rich province.

Unlike previous days, no casualties were reported on Tuesday, but the military operation headquarters said that a group of soldiers and police personnel had shot dead seven rebels and confiscated seven rifles and thousands of rounds of ammunition on Monday in a single skirmish in Jamur Pulung village, Gayo Luwes regency.

Lt. Col. Ahmad Yani Basuki, spokesman for the military operation in Lhokseumawe, North Aceh, said the firefight occurred after rebels burned on Sunday seven Mitsubishi L-300 vans and a truck in the village. Three civilians were killed in the incident.

"The firefight happened during an attempt to hunt down the rebels who torched the vans and killed the three civilians," he said.

The rebels' bodies were handed over to local residents for burial.

In other developments, more than 10,000 residents of Aceh Besar regency swore loyalty to the government, while more than 42,000 Acehnese people from refugee camps across the province were allowed to go back home after their home villages were declared safe.

Speaking on Tuesday at a simple ceremony in Lambaro, Aceh Besar regent Sayuti Is strongly urged villagers to help maintain security in their villages so that development programs could proceed.

"We should never be afraid of the armed rebellion or driving the rebels away, because we are with security personnel," he said at the ceremony attended by local police and military officials.

Chief of the local social affairs office Burhanuddin said that almost 43,000 from more than 85 camps in the province had returned to their homes because of the improved security situation.

He said the refugees had been trained in agriculture and farming and given financial aid so that they could resume their daily activities to improve their welfare.

The remaining refugees in Bireuen number only 2,000, as 18,000 people had returned home, and the majority of 14,000 refugees in South Aceh had also gone home.

Burhanuddin said more than 5,000 refugees in East Aceh were still occupying emergency tents near police and military offices in the regency, because of the frequent clashes between rebels and security personnel over the last two weeks.