Mon, 17 Apr 2000

Police deny involvement in YLBHI secretariat attack

JAKARTA (JP): Menteng Police dismissed on Saturday the allegations that its officers attacked and damaged the Foundation of the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (YLBHI) secretariat on Jl. Diponegoro No. 74 in Central Jakarta in pursuit of violent student protesters on Thursday.

"It was the student protesters and the crowd that pelted stones at the YLBHI secretariat.

"Yet the public pointed their fingers only at the police," deputy chief of the Menteng Police Capt. Sudiman said in a media conference.

He said nobody had been held responsible for the incident, which took place after the protesters returned from staging their protest on Jl. Cendana, where former president Soeharto resides.

"Even people at YLBHI did not entirely recognize those who took shelter at the building," he said.

Sudiman denied that plainclothes officers stormed the building in search of the protesters, but vowed that they would conduct an investigation to find the identity of the attackers.

"YLBHI management said that they would also conduct an investigation into the incident," he said.

Sudiman said the incident started when the police fired tear gas canisters at the protesters, sending them in different directions, including to the Menteng Police station.

"They pelted stones at our office, but we drove them away to the Cikini area," he said.

He added that at 6:30 p.m, the office received calls from residents complaining that the protesters and the crowd were still at the nearby Megaria Police post.

"We handled the situation, even after they threw Molotov cocktails at the Megaria Police post," he said, adding that the persuasive approach of the police still failed to calm the emotional protesters, who later used broken bottles and stones to attack police officers.

When things calmed down a bit, Sudiman said, the police retreated to the Megaria Police post hoping that the protesters would dissipate.

"However, they turned back and chased the officers until a water canon, which was sent there, scared them away before we even used it," he said.

He said a police car parked on Jl. Salemba Raya in Central Jakarta became the target of the protesters.

"They broke the windows of the car and banged on its roof."

Meanwhile, the Association of Indonesian Lawyers (IPHI) strongly condemned the incident, calling the actions of the police improper and arrogant.

"The incident ignored YLBHI's existence and the legal community in general," the association said in a written statement, copies of which were made available to the media on Saturday.

"The attack disregards our (legal community) existence, because the YLBHI secretariat has repeatedly been the target of police attacks, but with no satisfactory legal prosecution to resolve the cases," IPHI chairman Indra Sahnun Lubis said in the statement.

"If Thursday's incident remains unresolved, it will be a bad precedence for the image of the police. (06)