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INDONESIA: Acehnese leader speaks out at trial
BY MAX LANE
The trial (if it can be called that) of Acehnese people's movement leader Kautsar has begun in the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, and, after 105 days in prison, he was finally able on October 30 to speak in his own defence.
The chair of the Acehnese Peoples Democratic Resistance Front, Kautsar and two of his comrades were arrested on July 11 at a roadblock in Banda Aceh after police found leaflets in their car demanding the closure of ExxonMobil's Aceh refinery. The US oil giant faces mounting evidence that it has collaborated with Indonesian military units accused of human rights violations.
The three were on their way to a rally protesting ExxonMobil and Presidential Instruction No. 4/2001, issued in April, which orders increased security operations in Aceh.
Kautsar was later charged with carrying out criminal acts against the state, including spreading hatred against the legitimate authority, and has been kept in custody ever since.
The first hearings have been marked by what his lawyers have described as "unprofessional", "emotional" and "intimidatory" behaviour by the judges. The judges would not allow his lawyers to state any of their objections, nor would they allow a break for Kautsar, who has been ill, to recuperate.
The police also blocked off the roads leading to the courthouse, preventing any members of the public from attending the first three days of the hearings.
On October 30, however, the public was able to enter the court and Kautsar was able to dominate proceedings by debating his case with the judges.
According to Beudroh news service, at one point Kautsar rose angrily to reply to the judges' accusations of wrongdoing, drawing applause when he said, "What I have done was for justice and the oppressed people of Aceh. I would be doing wrong if I admitted any guilt, judge. Whether or not you find me guilty is your business. In any case I know that you are just an extension of the ruling power."
Responding to questions about the leaflets in his car, he stated, "Yes, it was I who drafted, typed and instructed to be distributed the leaflets calling for the closure of ExxonMobil and a mass boycott of tax payments. As long as ExxonMobil is involved in the violation of human rights, I will call on all the Acehnese people to boycott its operations."
Outside, the Free the Political Prisoners Alliance organised protests on the first day of hearings on October 23, calling for the release of Kautsar and all other political prisoners.
On October 26, the broad Jakarta-based coalition Solidarity for the Acehnese People (SEGERA) organised demonstrations in central Jakarta and on the campus of the University of Indonesia calling for Kautsar's release.
The trial comes amid mounting evidence of a worsening human rights situation in Indonesia's northern-most province.
On October 27, the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (KONTRAS) attacked the government for the number of extra-judicial killings that have occurred in Aceh since the issuing of Presidential Instruction No. 4.
According to KONTRAS, there have been 544 deaths since April 11, when the decree came into effect. The watchdog stated that it was also able to document 219 cases of arbitrary arrest, most involving torture, as well as 15 cases of rape. KONTRAS stated that they could prove the involvement of the Indonesian military in 353 of the documented cases.
From Green Left Weekly, November 7, 2001.
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