Sat, 06 Aug 1994

Marsinah's murder case is not closed: Experts

By Riyadi

JAKARTA (JP): Although 10 people have already been convicted over the highly controversial murder of labor activist Marsinah, many legal experts say the case is by no means closed and that the real murderers may still be at large.

The experts said the court proceedings appeared to be defective, noting that the courts even ignored the findings of the National Commission on Human Rights which suggested that there are other suspects besides the ten convicts.

"It's strange, the convicts were given harsh sentences, while at the same time there are strong indications that there are other suspects," Marzuki Darusman of the Commission said. "Whether they were involved in the killing or not is the courts' decision, but the defendants are entitled to get fair trials," Marzuki told The Jakarta Post.

Luhut M. Pangaribuan, chairman of the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute, said the judges should have used the Commission's fact findings in their consideration. "Given that our judges have monopolistic power, the least they could have done was to consider the findings," Luhut said.

Nine civilians and an Army captain have been convicted for the murder of 24-year old Marsinah, whose badly mutilated body was found on May 8, 1993 in Nganjuk in East Java.

A few days earlier, the 24-year old labor activist led a workers' strike at PT Citra Putra Surya, the watchmaking company in Sidoarjo where she worked.

Her murder sparked national and international outcries as human rights and labor activists used it to illustrate the rampant violations of human rights in Indonesia to the outside world.


The court proceedings were just as controversial. Police were criticized for the way they arrested the nine civilian defendants, ignoring arrest procedures and violating the suspects' rights. Then there were allegations that the defendants were tortured by their investigators.

The courts handed down sentences ranging from seven months to 17 years imprisonment. The lightest was given to Mutiari, the company's personnel officer and the only woman among the 10 convicted. The heaviest was delivered to the owner of the company, Yudi Susanto who was convicted of plotting the killing.

Army Capt. Kusaeri, formerly chief of the Porong military in Sidoarjo, got a nine month jail term. He was the last to be convicted.

Legal experts who monitored the trials of the 10 people closely said the proceedings were filled with loopholes and irregularities to cast doubts about the court verdicts.

During the proceedings, for instance, several key witnesses went missing mysteriously. And more recently, Captain Kusaeri rejected the testimony by co-defendants which would have been certain to acquit him.

"It's strange. He confessed to being guilty of the charges and rejected all the testimony which could have benefited him. Now that's weird, a defendant rejecting testimony which could have set him free?" Surabaya-based lawyer Trimoelja D. Soerjadi, who defended Yudi Susanto, said.

The military tribunal, in finding Kusaeri guilty, said he should have detected that a murder plan was underway and reported it to his superiors.


During the trials, all nine civilians retracted their incriminating statements made before investigators, saying they were made under duress.

Some said their genitals were given electric shocks or that they were forced to drink urine. One suspect said he had his toes placed under the leg of a chair where his investigator subsequently sat; another said he was forced to mop the floor with his tongue.

"Look, a businessman was asked to lick the floor. They (the investigators) should have been tried because they had broken the law. If we let such practices go unchallenged, they will surely proceed with such practices," Arist Merdeka Sirait, a labor activist said.

"Now the court has been torn to pieces because certain parties could play with it. And I am very disappointed with our judicial system," he continued.

The Surabaya and Sidoarjo courts which tried the Marsinah's murder case based their decisions to convict the defendants on their written confessions and completely ignored the oral testimony given in court.

The allegations of torture drew the attention of the National Commission on Human Rights which instantly formed a fact finding team to investigate. The Commission said it found evidence of rights violations against the defendants.

Marzuki however pointed out that the Criminal Code does not say anything about confessions made under duress.

"Everything returns to the autonomy of the judges," Marzuki said. "It's possible that public opinion will change, from human right abuses in the investigating level, into unfair trial."

The nine civilians still have a chance of reprieve, if not a the higher court hearing, the Supreme Court.

"I sincerely hope that the judges in the higher courts will consider all the facts," Luhut said.

He noted that the Supreme Courts have recently shown willingness to differ from the government in its rulings, most notably its decision on the Kedungombo land dispute which overruled the government.

The All Indonesian Workers Association (SPSI) meanwhile declined to be drawn into the legal wrangle over the Marsinah's murder case, saying that the main thing now is to put this in the past, and for both employers and workers to work towards harmonious industrial relations.

"We simply hope that there will be no repetition of the hardships which Marsinah had to endure," said SPSI Secretary General Bomer Pasaribu.

Marsinah was posthumously named as a workers' heroine by the SPSI, and the day her mutilated body was found, on May 8, was declared as Workers Solidarity Day.

Marsinah was also named as the recipient of last year's Yap Thiam Hien Human Rights Award.