Tue, 24 Jun 2003

GAM members to be charged with treason

Tiarma Siboro, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Arrested members of separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) will be charged under the country's Criminal Code for committing treason and the Emergency Law No. 23/1959 if they were caught in possession of weapons, Military Police Chief Maj. Gen. Sulaiman A.B. says.

The laws carry maximum penalties of life in jail and the death penalty respectively.

Sulaiman's remarks on Monday contradicted earlier statements by police investigators that suspected GAM members and supporters would be charged under new terrorism laws due to GAM's alleged involvement in a string of bomb attacks across the country.

The terrorism law allows law enforcers to detain and question suspected GAM members and supporters without the presence of a lawyer as required by the Criminal Code.

Sulaiman said all alleged GAM rebels would be tried at Nasi island near the provincial capital Banda Aceh.

Earlier, TNI spokesman Maj. Gen. Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin said the military would invite civilian judges and prosecutors, while joint military and police teams would investigate and interrogate suspected GAM rebels.

The government last month launched what it called an integrated operation to "crush" the almost three-decade long secessionist movement.

More than 10,000 people, mostly innocent civilians, have been killed or murdered in the violence, blamed on both the Indonesian Military (TNI) and GAM.

The integrated operation consists of a security campaign, humanitarian mission, the strengthening of local government and law enforcement.

The police are assigned to lead the law enforcement drive in the province with the assistance of the Military Police.

The government has also considered granting amnesty to GAM members who surrender, an official said on Monday.

Lt. Gen. Sudi Silalahi, an assistant to Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, said an amnesty would only be granted with the approval of the House of Representatives.

"We (the government) will consider giving amnesty to GAM rebels who surrender to the Unitary Republic of Indonesia. But of course such considerations require the approval of legislators," Sudi told The Jakarta Post by telephone.

He said rebels who surrendered to the government would not escape punishment for crimes committed outside their fight for Independence.

Last week, the Martial Law Administration issued instructions to military authorities in Aceh to treat surrendering GAM rebels humanely and provide protection.

The instruction also urged security personnel to intensify the military operation and to protect civilians through humanitarian missions.