Thu, 30 Aug 2001

Police free five of six detained GAM negotiators

BANDA ACEH, Aceh (JP): Police released five of the six detained Free Aceh Movement (GAM) negotiators on Wednesday afternoon.

The five -- Amni Ahmad Marzuki, Amdi Hamdani, Teuku Kamaruzzaman, Muhammad Usman and Sofyan Ibrahim Tiba -- left Aceh Police Headquarters at 5:05 p.m. and some 10 minutes later were taken by a Henry Dunant Center car to Kuala Tripa Hotel, also in Banda Aceh.

Another GAM negotiator, Nashiruddin Ahmad, is still being detained in connection with a passport forgery case and will soon be flown to the Jakarta Police Headquarters for further questioning.

On Tuesday Aceh police said they had extended the detention of the negotiators for another 40 days after their original detention expired on Aug. 9.

Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said earlier that President Megawati Soekarnoputri had approved their release.

GAM's legal representative Rufriadi said on Wednesday the five released negotiators had to report their whereabouts to the police twice a week, pending the prosecution of their case.

Five of the six were arrested in mid-July at a hotel which they have used as an office here. The sixth was arrested at his home in Aceh on Aug. 4.

The GAM negotiators were previously charged under Article 106 of the Criminal Code for treason against the state.

Police spokesman for Aceh's Law and Order Operation Adj. Sr. Comr. Sad Harunantyo told The Jakarta Post by phone from Banda Aceh that the GAM negotiators had to be available when called by the police for further questioning.

"What I'm saying is that people must question the function of the HDC (Henry Dunant Center) here. HDC never bothered to fight for the release of the state-owned television station TVRI crew or Aceh legislators who had been kidnapped by GAM, but it is making such a big fuss over (the detained) GAM negotiators. Not all of the Aceh people are GAM rebels. We must question their (the Henry Dunant Center's) objectivity here," Harunantyo said.

Three TVRI crew members have been detained by GAM for several weeks now.

Meanwhile, President Megawati's plan to visit the restive province, whose official name is now Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, is still being discussed in Jakarta.

State/Cabinet Secretary Bambang Kesowo was quoted by Antara as saying on Wednesday that the President planned to leave for Aceh on Sept. 2.

"But the final discussion on that would be held on August 31 for sure," he said.

Megawati previously offered an apology to the Aceh and Irian Jaya people for human rights violations committed under previous government policies.

Last week Susilo led a group of government officials, including some ministers, to visit Aceh.

GAM spokesman Sofyan Daud told the Post at that time that the visit was more a tourist excursion than a serious effort to stop violence in Aceh.

Sofyan said that any Indonesian officials visiting Aceh, including Megawati, would be considered tourists.

Security has so far been the main concern restricting Indonesian officials from visiting Aceh.

Lt. Gen. Djamari Chaniago, chief of military general affairs, said separately that the military was ready to guard Megawati despite threats from GAM.

Separatist groups have been fighting since the 1970s for an independent Islamic state in the resource-rich province on the northernmost tip of Sumatra.

An imbalance in the distribution of revenue derived from the natural resources between the central government and the province has become a major principle motivating the separatism.

More than 1,200 people have been reportedly killed this year alone, most of them since the military launched an anti-rebel crackdown in April.

The government recently passed a special autonomy bill for Aceh into law, which specifies that more of the province's revenues are retained by the province. (edt/50/sur)