Thu, 29 May 2003

Police promise legal action against Kontras attackers

Damar Harsanto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Police revealed on Wednesday that it had detained two members of the nationalist youth group Pemuda Panca Marga (PPM), which attacked the office of the human rights watchdog Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) on Jl. Cisadane, Central Jakarta.

"We are grilling these two PPM members, Furqon and William, as suspects in the attack," said City Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Prasetyo.

They were charged with the Criminal Code Article 170 on violence. If convicted, they could face a maximum five years in jail.

Prasetyo said in addition to the two suspects, police were interrogating 10 other PPM members. He said the police might also question the PPM leader over the incident.

Prasetyo said police investigators had obtained video recordings of the incident, thanks to several private television stations that covered the attack.

"We promise to take legal action against those who break the law, whoever they are," he said.

About 100 PPM members stormed Kontras' office on Tuesday, vandalizing the property and assaulting five staff members. They were looking for Munir, Kontras' founder, who now servers as the executive director of another human rights watchdog, Imparsial, but he was not at the office.

The groups also came to the office on Monday seeking Munir, and threatened that they would come in a larger group when they could not find him.

Even though four police officers were present at the time and witnessed the threat made by the group, no police officer was at Kontras' office on Tuesday.

Central Jakarta Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Sukrawardi Dahlan argued that his personnel failed to appear because they were all at an internal meeting.

The motive behind the attack by the PPM, whose members are children of veteran soldiers, was Munir, who is known for his critical stance against the war in Aceh.

Munir has been lambasting the government's military operation in Aceh, alleging that it was a gross human rights violation that could impede peace in the restive province.

Meanwhile, a senior official of the West Java PPM, Helmi Sutikno, who was at the scene of the attack, admitted that the attack on the Kontras office was against the law.

"We will accept any legal consequences resulting from our actions as a risk we have to bear in our fight for nationalism," Helmi told The Jakarta Post.

Helmi said the mob turned violent after Orie Rachman, chairman of Kontras' presidium, was ordered to sing the national anthem, Indonesia Raya, and could not sing it well.

Helmi added that many PPM members were insulted by Munir's critical statements against the military.

Kontras has become the target of violence over the past few years. In 2000, an explosive blew up in front of Kontras' previous office on Jl. Mendut, Central Jakarta, damaging a few parked cars, but no injuries were reported in the incident. In March last year, the mob attacked Kontras' office and vandalized their files.