Mon, 17 Oct 1994

Vocal scholar questioned for making harsh comments

YOGYAKARTA (JP): An outspoken political scholar was questioned by the authorities on Saturday for allegedly making harsh comments against the government during a seminar on democracy last August.

George Aditjondro, a lecturer at Satya Wacana University in Salatiga, Central Java, was summoned to the Yogyakarta police precinct because of allegations that his remarks amounted to slander against the government.

If proven guilty, George, who is being charged with violating article 207 of the Criminal Code, will be sentenced to 18 months in jail.

George reportedly made the remarks when he analyzed papers by former security and order commander Gen. (ret) Sumitro and former minister of home affairs Rudini at the seminar held at the Indonesia Islam University.

The seminar on "The Urgency of Political Development in the Process of Democracy in Indonesia" exposed some of the negative aspects of the country's economic and political system.

George was accompanied by a team of lawyers from the Yogyakarta chapter of the Legal Aid Institute.

During the interrogation on Saturday, police replayed recordings of the remarks which the authorities found offensive for the benefit of George and his lawyers.

One of the lawyers, Artidjo Alkostar, demanded an explanation from the police about George's precise status because his client had been earlier summoned simply to answer questions but now appeared to have been charged.

This is the second warrant for George from the Yogyakarta police in connection with the seminar. The first one was issued earlier this month when he was in Europe, raising speculation, which was later proven unfounded, that he might be arrested on his return to Indonesia.

George is defending his position, stating that the seminar was held in an academic circle which encourages critical thinking.

To prosecute someone for thinking critically would kill creativity, he pointed out.

Artidjo also defended his client, pointing out that the remarks were made before a limited audience and not to the general public.

"It would be a real tragedy if the authorities decide to prosecute George for making remarks in a seminar," he said. "This will be a major setback for the academic community." (mun/par)