Thu, 20 Nov 2003

Yemris Fointuna The Jakarta Post Kupang

Nine prosecutors of the East Flores Prosecutor's Office and five judges of the regency's district court, along with their families, fled Larantuka on Wednesday after the office and the courthouse in the town, the regency capital, were set ablaze by an angry mob last Saturday.

District Court Head I Wayan Supartha said that the prosecutors and judges had fled as they felt traumatized over the incident, despite the extra deployment of security personnel.

"The prosecutors and the judges who left town are those who handled the case involving Father Frans Amanue," he said, saying they moved to either the provincial East Nusa Tenggara capital of Kupang or Java.

Supartha was referring to a local charismatic Catholic priest who was sentenced to two-months jail, suspended for five months, for calling Larantuka regent Felix Fernandez corrupt.

The sentence means that Amanue will remain free unless he commits a crime within the next five months. The verdict, however, angered his supporters, who rioted.

Supartha said that the supervisors of the prosecutors and judges approved their decision to leave Larantuka, a mainly Catholic town.

"I'm also confused with the situation because all of our working facilities have been destroyed. It would be better for them to leave Larantuka and do their duty elsewhere," he said.

Separately, East Nusa Tenggara Governor Piet A. Tallo called on the law enforcers to stay in Larantuka, saying that temporary buildings had been provided for them.

In Jakarta, the Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW) said the incident in Larantuka showed the failure of law enforcers to probe public allegations of corruption.

"Instead of probing the allegations by the priest, they preferred to prosecute the priest for slander," said ICW deputy coordinator Danang Widoyoko in a statement.

ICW said that law enforcers in East Nusa Tenggara must be active in responding to public allegations of corruption committed by government officials.

It demanded the Attorney General's Office and the police probe alleged corruption by regent Fernandez as well as protect Amanue as a witness.

A bill on witness protection is still being deliberated at the House of Representatives.