Indonesia: Retired Generals, Former President’s Sister Arrested Before Peaceful Rally

Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata
Jakarta
2016-12-02
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161202_ID_RallyDec2_1000.jpg Thousands of rally-goers carry out Friday prayers on Thamrin Street in central Jakarta.
Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata/BenarNews

Updated at 8:15 a.m. ET on 2016-12-03

Indonesian police on Friday arrested 10 people including two retired generals and a former president’s sister and charged eight of them with treason for allegedly plotting to occupy the national parliament during a huge rally in Jakarta.

According to police, more than 200,000 Muslims carried out Friday prayers on central streets of the capital to demand that Jakarta Gov. Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (“Ahok”) be arrested for allegedly blasphemous remarks uttered in September.

The peaceful rain-soaked rally was twice as large as a similar one in early November that ended in a riot. The arrests Friday began before dawn.

Those detained included Rachmawati Soekarnoputri, 66, a sister of former president Megawati Soekarnoputri; retired army generals Kivlan Zein, 69, and Adityawarman, 70; activist Sri Bintang Pamungkas, 71; and rock musician Ahmad Dhani Prasetyo, 44.

They were being held at police mobile brigade headquarters in Kelapa Dua, West Java, a site where terrorism suspects are typically held, after being arrested from their homes and a hotel.

“Eight of them have been charged with article 107 of the criminal code, and two have been charged with article 28 of the Information and Electronic Transactions Law,” National Police spokesman Rikwanto told a press conference later in the day.

On Saturday, Indonesian police said they released eight people including Rachmawati, Zein and Dhani, but are continuing to investigate them, according to the Associated Press.

National police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar said that another man, Alvinida Al-Farasi, was arrested Friday, bringing the number of people under suspicion to 11. Three whose identities were not released remain in custody.

Convictions under Article 107, which concerns rebellion, can carry sentences of up to 15 years in prison, or carry life sentences, in the case of leaders inciting others to treason.

Article 28 states that “any person intentionally and illegally disseminating information meant to incite hatredor hostility against individuals or social groups based on ethnicity, religion, race or group” can be sentenced up to six years in jail.

Infiltrators?

On Nov. 21, National Police Chief Tito Karnavian said police had received information that certain parties intended to infiltrate a huge rally originally planned for Nov. 25 and overthrow the government.

And in a press conference at the office of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) Monday, Tito said the parties were not the rally organizers, the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and the National Movement to Protect the MUI Fatwa (GNPF MUI).

An earlier rally led by the same groups on Nov. 4 devolved into a riot outside the presidential palace after nightfall. Angry crowd attacked police barricades, set fires and looted stores.

At the time, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said he regretted that the demonstration had ended in violence.

“We deplore the events after evening prayers when it was time to disband and rioting broke out. And here we see infiltration by political actors exploiting the situation,” he said. He did not elaborate on who those “actors” might be.

Impeachment calls

In a video uploaded to YouTube on Nov. 27, activist Sri Bintang Pamungkas is seen delivering a speech at an event stating, “Even Suharto, who was backed by the military, was ousted, no way Jokowi can’t be ousted. Certainly he can be.

“If you unite, let’s flock to the parliament building, and demand the MPR yank Jokowi’s mandate as president. Yank it!” he said.

Bintang was a noted figure in student movements of 1998 that helped topple long-time dictator Suharto with days of protests across Indonesia and a parliament sit-in.

In a press conference Thursday, Rachmawati and Ahmad Dhani said they would ask the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), the upper house of Indonesia’s legislature, to hold an extraordinary session on restoring the original version of the 1945 Constitution, because amendments to the document had made it too liberal.

Zulkifli Hasan, speaker of the MPR, said Rachmawati had requested permission to hold a demonstration outside the parliament building.

“Yes, she came here frequently to talk about the Dec. 2 rally. She requested for there to be a demonstration here after the demonstration at Monas,” he was quoted as saying in Beritasatu.com, using an acronym for the National Monument in central Jakarta.

Neta S. Pane, head of the non-government group Indonesia Police Watch, criticized the arrests.

“The Jakarta police chief does not have a clear legal basis for arresting these eight people. … The criteria is not legally clear,” he said in a statement.

Lawyers can argue about whether those arrested had the influence and resources to carry out an act of treason, Emrus Sihombing, of Pelita Harapan University in Tangerang, West Java told BenarNews.

“If they have not been treated fairly, they may argue that in a legal sphere during the pretrial phase. I see police as having a compelling reason to make these arrests,” he said.

Former Malysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad speaks with Rachmawati Sukarnoputri during a visit to Jakarta, July 25, 2016. [AFP]

An earlier version stated incorrectly that the MPR has an upper house.

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