by Max Lane
Fifteen members of a police security unit from the central Jakarta police command raided the offices of the PIJAR Foundation on March 9. PIJAR (Information Centre and Action Network for Reform) is an organisation of students and intellectuals committed to the struggle for democratic change. PIJAR publishes the popular newsletter, Kabar dari PIJAR (KDP — News from PIJAR).
Two people were arrested in the raid: Tri Agus Siswomihardjo and Syahrul. Syahrul was later released.
In a statement issued on March 11, Bonar Tigor Naipospos, secretary of the PIJAR Presidium, explained that during the raid, the police warned the activists not to attempt to contact their lawyers. "They said that they would detain everybody in the office and then issue arrest warrants based on their ID cards."
An hour after detaining Tri Agus, the police returned to the office. They then forced Standarkia, secretary-general of another activist group, ALDERA (People's Democratic Alliance), to let them inspect its offices as well. As in their raid on the PIJAR office, they confiscated, without warrant, all files.
The next day the police returned to the PIJAR office with warrants for Rahlan Nashidik, the executive director of PIJAR, Hakim Hatta, action coordinator for PIJAR, and Moh. Syahrul. Syahrul, who was present during the raid, was detained.
Bonar said Agus and Syahrul were arrested on charges of violating article 154 of the Criminal Code on insulting the government in public. Anyone found guilty of violating the article is liable to seven years' imprisonment.
Last year, a PIJAR activist, Nuku Solaiman, was sentenced to four years in jail for the same offence. He was charged with insulting President Suharto in a demonstration.
In recent times, KDP has been attacking the minister of information, Harmoko, for his repressive press policy, which included the banning of Tempo, DeTik and Editor news weeklies last June. KDP has also exposed the expanding shareholdings of Harmoko and his family in scores of publications that have obtained their publishing permits during his period of office.
In his March 11 statement, Bonar Tigor Naipospos commented: "This event reminds us once again of the problems of attempting free speech and a free press in Indonesia ... For us, the KDP bulletin is one form of alternative press to balance the government monopoly over and repressive censorship of the press through the publishing permit system."
Other Indonesian human rights groups have also issued protests, including the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute and the Indonesian Front for the Defence of Human Rights (INFIGHT).
Munief Laredo, chairperson of Students in Solidarity with Democracy in Indonesia (SMID), one of the country's largest national student organisations, issued a statement of protest on March 15.
Munief called on all supporters of democracy to mobilise in solidarity with PIJAR and to issue statements condemning the actions against it. SMID demands the release of the PIJAR activists and the return of their property. Furthermore, SMID called for the release of all other political prisoners.