Indonesian Police: Treason Suspects Received Money Before Rally

Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata
Jakarta
2016-12-06
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161206-ID-rally-1000 Thousands of participants pray during a rally in Jakarta against that city’s governor, Dec. 2, 2016.
Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata/BenarNews

A group of people who were arrested on treason charges ahead of a rally last week against Jakarta’s governor had received funds from an unidentified source, Indonesian police said Tuesday.

On Friday authorities arrested 11 people and charged eight of them with treason, hours before 200,000 protestors gathered in the capital to demand that Jakarta Gov. Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama be arrested for alleged blasphemy against Islam.

Those charged with treason include Rachmawati Soekarnoputri, the sister of former President Megawati Soekarnoputri, and two retired army generals, Kivlan Zein and Adityawarman Thaha.

Rachmawati, Kivlan and Adityawarman and five other suspects were later released, but three other suspects remained in custody on Tuesday.

National police spokesman Martinus Sitompul said officers had evidence of money transfers, but he did not elaborate.

“We will track the flow of funds,” Martinus told BenarNews.

A spokesman for Rachmawati said she planned to challenge the treason allegation in court as well as lodge a complaint about her arrest with a unit within the national police force that oversees its professionalism.

“In addition to filing a motion for a pretrial hearing, we plan to report it to Propam over her arrest and the investigation process,” spokesman Teguh Santosa told BenarNews.

Rachmawati, 66, who suffers from hypertension and uses a wheelchair, was not treated well by the arresting officers, according to Teguh. She was arrested at her home at 5 a.m. on Friday without breakfast, and ate only once until she was freed in the evening, he said.

“Her status is still as a suspect. She is not under detention because police could not find a reason to keep her,” Teguh said.

Rachmawati was charged under Indonesia’s criminal code with treason and conspiracy to commit treason. If convicted, she could face up to 15 years in prison.

Other suspects who were released within 24 hours included activist Ratna Sarumpaet, politician Eko Suryo Santjojo, labor activist Alvin Indra and rock musician Ahmad Dhani Prasetyo, who was charged for allegedly defaming Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.

The three suspects still in custody are Sri Bintang Pamungkas, a noted former political prisoner who has been charged with  treason along with Rizal Kobar and Jamran.

Police chief discusses investigation

On Monday, national police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian told a committee of the Indonesian House of Representatives (DPR) that police had received intelligence that groups planned to infiltrate Friday’s rally for their own political interests.

Officers discovered a plot to occupy the parliament building to force lawmakers to meet to impeach Jokowi, according to the police chief.

“Occupying the parliament forcibly, for whatever reason, for the police, is unconstitutional,” Tito said.

Tito said the suspects were arrested hours before the rally to prevent them from provoking the masses.

In addition, investigators have communicated with the military, police and intelligence detachments regarding the arrests of the retired generals.

In a written statement, military spokesman Maj. Gen.  Wuryanto explained that police followed procedure.

“Prior to the arrest, the police always do coordination and communication and exchange of information with the military. In principle, the military supports what is done by police,” he said.

Police were concerned about outbreaks at the rally because a similar protest in November against Ahok started peacefully, but ended in violence. Ahok, who is a Christian and member of Indonesia’s ethnic Chinese minority, is running for election in February, but angered Muslims by uttering public comments related to the Quran, for which he has apologized.

President Joko expressed regret about the events of Nov. 4.

“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 at the time while not elaborating on who those “actors” might be.

Evidence of treason in doubt

On Tuesday, the director of the Legal Aid Institute Jakarta, Alghiffari Aqsa, questioned police actions in arresting the suspects on treason charges.

“If specified as perpetrators of treason, it means they are very dangerous to the country, so why were they are released?” Alghiffari told BenarNews.

He said the evidence was not strong enough for treason convictions.

“You could say that for treason, is there proof of violence or a plan to do violence. If only in words, it is part of freedom of expression,” he said.

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