Fri, 01 Dec 2000

Sri Bintang cleared of charges

JAKARTA (JP): The South Jakarta District Court cleared on Thursday Indonesian Democratic Union Party (PUDI) chairman Sri Bintang Pamungkas of subversion charges and ordered the government to publicly rehabilitate his name.

Presiding judge Muhamad Munawir said the decision was based on Law No. 26/1999, which revoked and declared unlawful Law No. 11/1963 on subversion.

"The government has revoked the 1963 subversion law. Therefore, there is no legal grounds to prosecute the defendant for subversion," Munawir said.

He said the decision to clear Bintang of all charges was also made based on the cooperation of the defendant during the hearing.

Munawir said the court decided to resume Bintang's trial after the politician sent a letter to the court and the South Jakarta Prosecutor's Office on Oct. 26 of this year, asking that the legal proceedings proceed.

The case came to a standstill after the original presiding judge in the trial, Darlan Nasution, was appointed a senior judge at the Aceh Provincial High Court in mid-1998. The trial opened in late-1997.

The district court resumed hearing the trial on Nov. 23.

Despite the prolonged trial, Bintang has enjoyed a normal life since May 25, 1998, when then president B.J. Habibie granted him amnesty and ordered his release from prison.

The South Jakarta Prosecutor's Office sent a letter to the South Jakarta District Court on May 26, 1998, asking the court to dismiss all charges against Bintang.

"But the prosecutor's office request never received a response from the chief of the South Jakarta District Court," Bintang said.

Bintang was arrested for subversion in March 1997 and detained in a cell at the Attorney General's Office, along with his colleagues Yulius Usman and Saleh Abdullah.

Yulius and Saleh were released after one month in detention, but Bintang was tried for subversion. The charges arose because of his activities with PUDI, which the New Order government of Soeharto never recognized.

Only three political parties were recognized during the New Order era -- the United Development Party (PPP), Golkar and the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI).

Among the charges against Bintang was his call for a boycott of the May 1997 general election, a message which he sent by way of Idul Fitri greeting cards which reached numerous people, including government officials.

When the trial was ongoing in 1997, Bintang, who was expelled from the House of Representatives in 1995, was serving a 34-month prison term for insulting president Soeharto during a speech in Germany in 1995.

He lost his seat in the House after the PPP faction, which he belonged to, dismissed him for repeatedly criticizing the military's role in politics. (01)