Allegations that Indonesian presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto committed human rights abuses escalated Thursday, as his former military boss released details of an investigation into the kidnappings of activists during a civilian uprising in the late 1990s.
Retired military chief Wiranto, who backs Prabowo's top political rival, said in a televised news conference Thursday that he discharged Prabowo from his position as lieutenant general after an internal military investigation showed he ordered the arrests of 23 activists, 13 of whom remain missing. One was found dead.
“The DKP [Officers Honorary Council] that I formed found that Lieutenant General Prabowo, who then served as Commander of the Army Strategic Reserve Command, was implicated in the kidnapping cases. Therefore, based on the results of the investigation of the 1998 abduction cases, the DKP recommended that the Commander of the Army Strategic Reserve Command be discharged from military service," he said.
Wiranto, who denied that he ordered Prabowo to arrest student activists, now heads a small political party that supports Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, who is first in national polling ahead of the election scheduled for July 9.
Haris Azhar, coordinator of the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence, or KontraS, told VOA there was a need in Indonesia to address long-standing allegations of abuse because the legal process "did not work" with Prabowo.
"It increasingly shows the urgency for us as a nation to resolve the issue of gross human rights violations, in this case the kidnapping of activists. It also shows the reluctance of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, as well as the Attorney General to resolve this case," said Haris.
In a recent televised debate with Widodo, Prabowo said his "conscience is clear" with regard to the issue.
The Indonesian attorney general's office has yet to act on a 2006 investigation by a human rights commission that included personal accounts of torture by Prabowo's unit.
(This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Indonesian service.)