Tue, 18 Mar 2003

Police start hasty probe into `Tempo' attack amid pressure

Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Bowing to public and political pressure, the police started on Monday an investigation into the attack on the Tempo news weekly by a group of people representing the interests of businessman Tomy Winata, but possible legal loopholes were clear to be seen.

Central Jakarta Police investigators questioned four of the five persons summoned as suspects for assaulting Tempo journalists following their raucous demonstration at the magazine's offices on Jl. Proklamasi, Central Jakarta, two weeks ago.

As of late afternoon, the police were still seeking answers to 20 questions they had posed to suspects David alias A Miauw, Septi, Hidayat Lukman alias Teddy Uban, and Yosef. Another suspect, Abdul Haris Sumbi, failed to turn up for unknown reasons.

According to the head of the suspects' legal team, Farhat Abbas, the police originally laid charges under Article 352 of the Criminal Code on minor assault, which carries a maximum of three-months imprisonment.

During the investigation, said Farhat, the police decided to press an additional charge under the Criminal Code's malleable Article 335 on the use of violence to prevent others from exercising their freedom. This article carries a term of one year in jail.

However, the second charge could backfire on the police for, as is stated in Article 335(2), it requires a complaint from the victim.

"The police investigators said the proof of the second charge is based on their findings, and not on the victims' statements. Therefore, we demand justice," Farhat asserted.

Moreover, he told reporters, should there have been assaults on Tempo journalists, then the police who witnessed them should have arrested the culprits at the time.

None of the police officers reached were willing to comment.

There was no explanation as to why the suspects were not also charged under Article 4 of the press law, which carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison or a fine of Rp 500 million (US$55,500).

On March 8, around 200 people claiming to be employees of the Artha Graha Group, which is owned by Tomy, and members of the Banteng Muda Indonesia (BMI), a youth organization associated with the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) held a rally in front of the Tempo offices.

According to journalist Ahmad Taufik, who received the representatives, they tried to force him to reveal the source of an article on Tomy's alleged involvement in last month's fire in the Tanah Abang market.

A number of persons then took Tempo chief editor Bambang Harymurti, Taufik, and editor Karaniya Dharmasaputra to the Central Jakarta police station, while others occupied the Tempo offices with riot police looking on in the parking lot.

David reportedly hit Bambang in the stomach, kicked him and slapped him on the face in the chief of detective's office, which was also full of police detectives. Karaniya, who tried to defend Bambang, was also slapped on the face.

David claimed he gave money to the police and was the one who had provided the lights in the police station. He also claimed he had a list of reporters to whom he paid a total of Rp 150 million per month. He even said he had funded Sutiyoso's reelection as governor.

Before entering the interview room, David told reporters that the media had engaged in a deliberate attempt to distort the facts.