Tue, 15 Jul 2003

Three month jail sought for students

M. Taufiqurrahman, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Prosecutors asked the court for a three-month imprisonment on Monday for three University of Indonesia (UI) students who were arrested for "violating the law on freedom of expression" and "disturbing public order."

Prosecutor M. Manik told the Central Jakarta District Court that defendants Rico Marbun, Fathul Nugroho and Ardi Purnawan Sani had violated Law No. 9/1998 on freedom of expression as they allegedly did not inform the police before holding a rally near the official residence of President Megawati Soekarnoputri on Jl. Teuku Umar in Menteng, Central Jakarta.

He also charged the three students with violating Article 218 of the Criminal Code on disobeying orders given by the police to disperse.

"For those violations, the defendants should be thrown in prison for three months with four months of probation," Manik told the court.

Lawyer Taufik Basari, who leads the defense team, told reporters after the trial that his team would have one last chance to sum up and rebut the prosecutors' allegations.

"We will make a move against the charges, as we believe that the accusation is baseless. What they did during the rally was merely to express the disgruntlement felt by the people," he said.

He said that a conviction would set a bad precedent for democracy in the country.

"President Megawati Soekarnoputri should not repeat the mistakes of the past regime, which crushed the prodemocracy movement," Taufik said.

Rico, the former chairman of the UI Student Executive Body (BEM), said that despite the sentence demand of only three months, the trial was part of the government's effort to curb democracy and criticism in the country.

"More trials against pro-democracy people who express their views will follow," he said.

The three students were named suspects after staging rallies demanding a reduction in utility prices, the halting of the privatization drive and tougher action against embezzlers, outside the official residence of the President earlier this year.