News / Asia

Indonesian Torture Victim Disputes New Claim of Innocence

FILE - Indonesian presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto
FILE - Indonesian presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto
Andy Lala
A man who says he was a victim of torture during the regime of former Indonesian president Suharto is disputing a revelation from a former general that casts blame away from current presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto.

Mugiyanto says in an interview with the VOA's Indonesian service Wednesday that the statement by former major general Kivlan Zen does not exonerate Prabowo, who is running for president this year.

“Prabowo said that he kidnapped or arrested nine people, including me.  According to me this [action] is contrary to sound and humane thinking. Prabowo who at that time was head of the Kopassus [special forces] and the Rose Team did not take us into protective custody.  Prabowo interrogated and tortured us inhumanely.  We were put in a situation where there was practically no boundary between living or dying.  No one would have intervened if we were killed at that time," said Mugiyanto.

Mugiyanto was one of nine student activists who were released in 1998 after being tortured, allegedly by members of a military special forces unit known as the Rose Team, which fell under the command of then - Lieutenant General Prabowo.  Thirteen others who were detained by the unit have never been found.

But former general Kivlan Zen this week caused a stir when he said the 13 missing were killed by a different group.

"Soon after [they were freed by the Rose Team], they were rearrested unbeknownst to us.  They could have been captured by double agents.  They may be the enemies of [former president] Suharto and Prabowo," said Zen.

He did not provide further details, but said he is prepared to testify before the National Commission for Human Rights, known as Komnas HAM, or the attorney general's office.

Human rights groups, while casting doubt on the claim, are urging Komnas HAM and the attorney general to summon Kivlan Zen for questioning.

Haris Azhar, from the Commission for Mission People and Violent Acts, says it is vital for Komnas HAM and the attorney general to pursue justice.  

“It is important for the attorney general’s office and the National Commission of Human Rights to come to an agreement to reach a solution. It would be ridiculous for those two institutions would to be involved in administrative legalese and ignored the rights of the victims.  If by the start of the [presidential] elections these two bodies still fail to take actions, then we can say that they are part of the forced disappearances," said Azhar.

However, Komnas HAM Commissioner Nurkholis says that his agency considers its investigation final and that it is now in the hands of the attorney general's office, which has not commented on the new allegations.

Prabowo, who is considered a leading candidate for president this year, was removed from his military post in 1998 after a council of generals found it likely that he knew about the kidnapping operations conducted by his special forces troops, known as Kopassus, in Indonesia.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Indonesian service.

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