Fri, 18 May 2001

Laskar Jihad commander offers to stop lawsuit

JAKARTA (JP): Laskar Jihad Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jammaah commander Ja'far Umar Thalib offered on Thursday to revoke his lawsuit against the National Police on the condition that they drop the murder charges against him.

But the police confirmed later in the day that they would press on with the investigation into Ja'far for allegedly inciting religious hostility and ordering the murder of one of his followers, who was stoned to death in Maluku for adultery. The police also said that the suspect was still placed under house arrest.

Ja'far, who sued the police for what he claimed was an illegal arrest and detention, told journalists after the hearing at the South Jakarta District Court that he would discuss the possibilities with the police.

Ja'far's lawyer Eggy Sujana said earlier in the hearing: "We intend to revoke our suit against the police. They had been very cooperative, demonstrated by their converting our client's arrest status from house arrest to city arrest. We are confident the police will drop the charges altogether."

Eggy added that the planned negotiation with the police was aimed at avoiding possible further conflicts. He did not elaborate.

Judge Syamsul Ali adjourned the trial until Friday, when the plaintiff would decide whether or not to revoke the lawsuit.

The courtroom was packed with dozens of Ja'far's followers, all of them wearing the all-white Muslim garb.

The court building, situated in the crowded residential and business area of Kemang, was tightly guarded by police, who had also picked up Ja'far from his brother's house in Bogor.

Ja'far, leader of a hard-line Muslim group, was arrested by the police on May 4 at Juanda Airport in Surabaya, East Java, and was later put under house arrest.

Later on Thursday, Ja'far and his lawyer met National Police chief Gen. Surojo Bimantoro and the National Police Detective chief, Insp. Gen. Engkesman Hillep.

"I and my client spoke with the police chief and told him that we were ready to revoke our lawsuit against the National Police, over the wrongful arrest of my client, as long as police released my client from house arrest," Eggy Sudjana, told reporters.

The meeting was quickly played down by National Police top officials, who said that the discussions held between Ja'far and the four-star general did not touch the charges against Ja'far.

National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Didi Widayadi said that there would be no negotiations with Ja'far regarding the charges of murder and inciting hatred.

"Ja'far has been charged with murder and inciting hatred against a religion ... this is a nonnegotiable fact and investigations into both these charges will continue," Didi told The Jakarta Post.

Didi however said that Ja'far had requested for his house arrest status to be lifted, and that police were considering the matter.

"We have not made any decisions on his house arrest status. It is still under consideration." (bby/ylt)