Mon, 22 Aug 1994

Ten students freed as Supreme Court reviews their case

JAKARTA (JP): Ten students who were serving jail terms for defaming President Soeharto were released on Friday as the Supreme Court, almost unsolicited, decided to review their case.

The students were given a frantic welcome by their colleagues and families as they walked out of the gates of the Salemba Detention Center, where they have been locked up since December.

"Long live students, long live the people!" the 10 students shouted at the gate with their fists raised.

Once outside, they and their colleagues sung the national anthem Indonesia Raya. The brief ceremony was closed with a photo session.

Also present were lawyers from the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH) who represented the students in their trial. Adnan Buyung Nasution, the outspoken chairman of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation, was there to give words of encouragement.

The students were among the 21 who were convicted by the Central Jakarta District Court in May for insulting President Soeharto during a demonstration at the House of Representatives (DPR) on Dec. 14.

The court then handed all 21 students six month prison terms which meant they should have been freed on June 14.

On the last day before they were supposed to be free, however, the Jakarta High Court, acting on appeal from the government prosecutors, upheld the guilty verdict and extended the terms to between eight months and 14 months.

The students never appealed the verdicts although they maintain that they were exercising their constitutional rights when they marched to the DPR to criticize some of the government's policies.

The Supreme Court, acting on a protest from the LBH Jakarta, early this week ordered the release of the 10 students who received eight month stays because their terms should have ended on Aug. 14.

The Court said that the students should be released while it was reviewing the case.

Saef Lukman, one of the freed students, told the Post later that while his priority will be to resume his studies, he would not abandon the cause that put him in jail in the first place, to fight for democracy.


Saef said his other nine colleagues feel the same. "We will be consistent in what we believe."

The other nine released on Friday are Priyadi Kartodihardjo, Munasir Huda, Yunus Kuslim, Sunandar, Toni Sinaga, Andrianto Achmad Sahrun, Fery Haryono Machus, M. Farid Rasyad, Andi Hartono.

Saef who is from Cianjur, West Java, said he had mixed emotions about being released, on the one hand he was happy that he was free, while on the other hand, he feels for his 11 colleagues who are still in jail.

Of the 11, nine are serving time in Salemba and the other two, both women, are serving in the Pondok Bambu women's penitentiary.

The students also planned to check with the Supreme Court about their case, Saef said. "We learn that the Court has made an administrative mistake because we have been stated as the party which filed against the High Court's verdict."

LBH Jakarta lawyers confirmed that they did send a letter to the Supreme Court asking for its intervention to release all the students but they stressed that it was not an appeal against the High Court's ruling.

Luhut told The Jakarta Post that he would now seek the release of the other 11 students still in detention.

"I am of the opinion that the students should be freed because they have aired their opinion at the right place, in the DPR," he said. (par)