Fri, 05 Sep 2003

Sutiyoso allows speech at PDI Headquarters: witness

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The former secretary-general of the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) testified on Thursday in the trial of five men charged with involvement in the July 27, 1996, attack on the party's Jakarta headquarters.

Alex Litaay told the Central Jakarta District Court that a free speech forum at the party's headquarters had been approved by Jakarta's then military commander, Sutiyoso.

The five defendants in the case, two military soldiers and three civilians, are: Col. (ret) Budi Purnomo, Capt. Suharto, Mochammad Tanjung, Jonathan Marpaung Panahatan and Rahimmi Ilyas.

"Sutiyoso asked us not to rally on the streets, and instead to hold a free speech forum at the headquarters," Alex said.

He testified that Sutiyoso went so far as to offer to close off Jl. Diponegoro, which ran in front of the headquarters, for the forum.

"There was a gentleman's agreement between us and the commander (Sutiyoso)," he said.

The forum was set up after PDI chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri was ousted as leader of the party in a government- backed congress that led to the election of Soerjadi as PDI chairman.

Opposition and student leaders gave speeches at the forum criticizing the government, before president Soeharto ordered the security authorities to put a stop to it.

Backed by the military, hundreds of Soerjadi's supporters attacked the headquarters. The violence spread through the area and dozens of buildings were vandalized and set on fire.

Dozens of the party's supporters were reportedly killed or went missing in the attack.

During the trial on Thursday, lawyers for the defendants said Alex's testimony had no direct correlation to the charges against their clients.

Meanwhile, prosecutor Bastian Harahap said it was not necessary to summon Sutiyoso, who is now the governor of Jakarta, to testify in the trial.

Presiding judge Rukmini adjourned the trial until next week.

Sutiyoso, along with a number of military and police officers have been questioned over the July 27 attack. None of them have been charged over the violence.

Megawati, who is now the country's President and chairwoman of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), recently backed Sutiyoso for a second term as governor.