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SMH: Activist's death blamed on anti-terrorism squad 'abuses'

Activist’s death blamed on

anti-terrorism squad ‘abuses’

Yusuf Sipakoly ... ‘I have rights to express my opinion.’Yusuf Sipakoly … ‘I have rights to express my opinion.’

JAKARTA: In his last interview, the Malukan political prisoner Yusuf Sipakoly, said: ”I believe the truth will surely arrive, although it walks slowly.”

Mr Sipakoly, who died on Monday, was one of many activists in the eastern Indonesian province to allege gross human rights abuses by Detachment 88, the Indonesian anti-terrorism unit partly funded by Australia.

Sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2007 for possessing a small separatist flag, the Herald spoke to him less than two weeks ago while he was in an Ambon hospital hooked to a dialysis machine.

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”I was tied with nylon [by the Detachment 88 officers] and my head was covered with a bucket,” he said. ”Then they started beating me until I urinated in my underwear …

”Another police officer, not Detachment 88, hit me with a wooden block while another officer hit me all over my body.”

Mr Sipakoly also alleged he was forced to drink hot water infused with carbon paper.

The 52-year-old father’s subsequent kidney and stomach ailments were a result of the mistreatment, he said.

”I didn’t commit subversion; I never carried gun and pointed it at anyone or anything; I never launched any violent attack against the state, but I only wanted to prove that I have rights to express my opinion.”

Although no action was ever taken against those who allegedly beat him, Mr Sipakoly was among 70 people interrogated in 2007 and given long prison sentences.

Another dozen men were arrested last month for planning a peaceful protest and alleged similar abuses.

Yesterday the Indonesian police chief, Bambang Hendraso Danuri, confirmed police would investigate the new claims of torture, highlighted in a Herald investigation this week.

A prominent human rights lawyer, Johnson Panjaitan, said that despite several attempts to raise the alleged abuses with Indonesian authorities, this was the first time they had agreed to launch an investigation into the alleged abuses.

But he said the exercise was pointless unless the investigation was independent and undertaken by the Indonesian government’s human rights and police watchdogs.

“This is an important case,” Mr Panjaitan said.

However, Indonesia’s Co-ordinating Minister for Politics, Law and Security, Djoko Suyanto, said he doubted the claims were true.

SMH: Counter-terrorism squad to stay in Papua

Tom Allard

Media Information – FYI
September 14, 2010

JAKARTA: Detachment 88 has a legitimate role in countering separatism and will remain in Papua, where a long-simmering independence campaign has been running, the unit’s commander, Tito Karnavian, has confirmed.

In an interview with the Herald, Brigadier General Karnavian said Papua was different to Maluku, another Indonesian province where members of the counter-terrorism unit have been accused of abuses and from where they will soon leave.

General Karnavian pointed to shootings last year near the US-owned Freeport mine, in which an Australian worker, Drew Grant, and others died, as evidence that separatists in Papua were using ”tactics of terror”.

”Any group using violence against civilians must be seen as a terrorist group. It’s not just Islamic groups,” he said.

”You can’t confine Detachment 88 only for Islamic groups. That would be used by Islamic groups to say that we are just an extension of the Western powers against Islam.”

Independence supporters dispute that their armed wing, Organisasi Papua Merdeka, was involved in the Freeport shootings, blaming Indonesian military and police who lost the lucrative job of guarding the gargantuan gold and copper mine.

One analyst, who asked not to be named, doubted whether Detachment 88 should play a significant role in suppressing separatism and said it could prove counter-productive.

”It’s a huge mistake to brand separatist activity as terrorism – activities designed to create fear – when you are trying to find a political solution in places like Papua,” the analyst said.

Australia and the US fund and train Detachment 88, Indonesia’s elite counter-terrorism unit, and value its skill in preventing terrorist attacks, uncovering networks and arresting offenders.

But the nations have been concerned by repeated allegations of abuses in Maluku and are wary of being linked to its counter-separatist activities.

In response to the Herald’s revelations yesterday about abuses in Maluku, l an Australian Foreign Affairs spokesman said: ”Det-88 has not sought assistance from Australia in any investigations or operations to counter internal separatist movements.”

Brigadier General Karnavian said an imminent restructuring of Detachment 88 would see its forces outside Jakarta, including those in Papua, focus on ”intelligence gathering rather than investigations”.

Under the new arrangements, forces would report directly to Jakarta. At present, General Karnavian said he had no control over Detachment 88 police outside the capital, including those in Maluku. ”They were instructed directly by the head of police or head of detectives in the province,” he said.

An Indonesia analyst from the Australian National University, Greg Fealy, welcomed the restructure. ”There are some well trained, highly professional Densus [Detachment 88] officers at the national level, but regional units often reflect local police culture and preoccupations, including a greater tendency to use violence.”