Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Communism article used to sentence activist in Indonesia

Communism article used to sentence activist in Indonesia

Content image - Phnom Penh Post

Communism article used to sentence activist in Indonesia

by Moses Ompusunggu, Wahyoe Boediwardhana

JAKARTA/BANYUWANGI, Indonesia (The Jakarta Post/ANN) - The Banyuwangi District Court in East Java sentenced on Tuesday environmentalist Heri Budiawan, 37, to 10 months’ imprisonment for violating Criminal Code provisions on crimes against state security.

He was found guilty of spreading communism during a rally opposing the presence of a gold mining company in Gunung Tumpang Pitu, East Java.

Heri is the first person to be penalised under articles banning communism in Indonesia since the fall of strongman Soeharto — which initiated in the 1960s a communist scare to counter antigovernment activities — in 1998.

Prosecutors originally sought seven years in prison for Heri, one of the highest sentence demands for rights activists and environmentalists implicated in criminal cases to date, according to the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi).

Heri’s lawyer, Abdul Wahid Habibullah, said he would appeal the ruling and that his client had been penalized for “something he never committed.”

“Many events could not be proven during the trial, such as the presence of a banner that was said to display the hammer-and-sickle logo,” he said.

Heri, nicknamed Budi Pego, was arrested in September 2017 for allegedly displaying a banner with a hammer-and-sickle logo during an April protest against gold mining activities in an area prone to environmental degradation. His lawyer and colleagues denied the claim.

Amnesty International Indonesia slammed the ruling, calling it a “repression of citizens’ constitutional rights to free speech.”

Amnesty International Indonesia director Usman Hamid said in a statement Tuesday that the organisation “is calling for higher judiciary institution to free Budi Pego, who fights for the environment and rights of people living around Gunung Tumpang Pitu.”

Usman said the court had failed to deliver justice because of “weak evidence” to support allegations levelled at Budi.

“Even though the ruling was much lower than the prosecutor’s demand, it has still offended the public’s sense of justice, because the allegation of spreading communism was used by authorities to charge a person who peacefully voiced his criticism,” Usman said.

In 2006, the Banyuwangi regency administration granted a mining business license to PT Indo Multi Niaga, which later transferred it to PT Merdeka Copper Gold through its two subsidiaries. These were PT Bumi Suksesindo (BS), which was given the right to work on 4,998 hectares, and PT Damai Suksesindo, which was to manage 6,623 ha.

The local community publicly opposed the establishment of mining operations in 1997. The latest protest was conducted on Nov. 25 and ended in clashes between local demonstrators and security personnel.

Tumpang Pitu had been designated a protected forest area, but on Nov. 19, 2013, then forestry minister Zulkifli Hasan, now the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) speaker and National Mandate Party (PAN) chairman, issued a decree changing the status of 1,942 ha of protected forest to production forest in Tumpang Pitu, paving the way for mining operations to begin.

MOST VIEWED

  • Website advises travellers to stay clear of Angkor Wat

    An Australian website has advised travellers to avoid Angkor Wat during their trip to Southeast Asia because the ancient temple is showing signs of rapid erosion and faced water management issues. In a recent article entitled Best places to go in 2020: 12 destinations you should avoid

  • First deportees of the year touch down in Cambodia

    Twenty-five Cambodian-Americans landed in Phnom Penh on Wednesday, marking the first such deportations of the year. “On Wednesday, US law enforcement authorities deported 25 Cambodian nationals that immigration judges determined had no legal basis to remain in the US,” said Arend Zwartjes, spokesperson for the US

  • Passenger taxi boat ridership sinks despite free services

    Passenger taxi boat traffic has dropped by about five per cent compared to the same period last year, despite the government providing free service for garment workers until next year, Phnom Penh Autonomous Bus Transportation Authority director Ean Sokhim said on Monday. In 2018, the Phnom

  • Shipments of mango to South Korea poised to begin this week

    Exports of Cambodian mangoes to South Korea will begin this week after Korean authorities gave the nod. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ Department of Plant Protection, Sanitary and Phytosanitary Requirements director Ker Monthivuth told The Post on Sunday that after several inspections of

  • Kingdom drafting new law to strengthen immigration

    The Ministry of Interior on Tuesday said it had formed a working group to draft amendments to the Law on Immigration. Its secretary of state Sok Phal told The Post that the amendments will strengthen the management of immigrants in line with the current situation.

  • Qatar Airways to connect Doha and Siem Reap town

    Qatar Airways Company QCSC has announced a new route connecting Qatar’s capital Doha with Siem Reap, a move hailed by local officials as a significant step to boost tourist numbers. A Qatar Airways representative, speaking at the Kuwait Aviation Show, announced on Thursday that