Wed, 24 Mar 1999

Koppasus verdict slated for April 6

JAKARTA (JP): A judge at the Jakarta Military Court said on Tuesday the court will hand down on April 6 the verdict against 11 Army Special Forces (Kopassus) soldiers charged with abducting political activists.

Presiding Judge Col. Susanto set the date after chief military prosecutor Col. Harom Wijaya rebutted the defense argument that the court should drop all charges against the defendants.

"The defendants are charged with depriving people of freedom under Article 333 of the Criminal Code," Harom told the military court in Klender, East Jakarta.

Col. Rettob Abdullah, who heads the defense team, had said in an earlier hearing that "the setting up of the Rose Team within Kopassus and its duties were ... solely for the interest of the country and the nation".

The Rose Team leader, Maj. Bambang Kristiono, said in a previous court session that he had set up the team in July 1997 to arrest "radical groups" suspected of plotting to sabotage the General Session of the People's Consultative Assembly in March 1998.

Bambang and the other defendants -- seven captains and three sergeants -- admitted to involvement in the abductions of Pius Lustrilanang, Desmon J. Mahesa, Haryanto Taslam, Feisol Reza, Raharjo Waluyo Djati, Aan Rusdianto, Nezar Patria, Mugianto and Andi Arief.

The nine were among 23 activists reportedly abducted by unidentified men beginning April 1997. They resurfaced after a few weeks later and spoke of abduction and torture. One other activist was found dead and 13 others are still listed as missing.

Bambang said he reported the information gathered from the activists to his superior, then Group Commander Col. Chairawan of Kopassus. At the time, the force was headed by Soeharto's son-in- law, Prabowo Subianto.

Prosecutor Harom has demanded jail sentences of between 15 months and 26 months for the defendants.

Harom also demanded the court discharge Bambang and the seven captains from the Armed Forces (ABRI). (byg)