EXCLUSIVE…Journalist Allan Nairn Facing Possible Arrest in Indonesia for Exposing US-Backed Forces Assassinated Civilians


Democracy Now!


March 24, 2010

In Indonesia, investigative journalist Allan Nairn is facing possible
arrest for exposing that US-backed Indonesian armed forces assassinated
a series of civilian activists last year. Since Allan Nairn broke the
news of the assassination program on Democracy Now! on Friday, the
Indonesian press has been buzzing with the allegations. A military
spokesman told the Jakarta Globe that the military is considering legal
action against Nairn. Earlier today, Nairn issued a public challenge to
the Indonesian military to arrest him so that he could face off with
the military in open court. [includes rush transcript]

Guests:

Allan Nairn, investigative journalist and activist.

Damien Kingsbury, professor at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia. He is the author of several books on Indonesia, including Power Politics and the Indonesian Military.

Rush Transcript

AMY GOODMAN: President
Obama dedicated the signing of healthcare legislation yesterday to a
number of people, including his mother, S. Ann Dunham Soetoro.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Today,
    I’m signing this reform bill into law on behalf of my mother, who
    argued with insurance companies even as she battled cancer in her final
    days.


AMY GOODMAN: The
healthcare legislative process and its frenetic endgame prompted the
President to postpone a trip to the country where his mother raised him
for several years of his childhood: Indonesia.

While his healthcare
bill is considered by many a huge step forward, Obama is
simultaneously, and with far less scrutiny, taking what many human
rights activists consider to be a huge step backward with Indonesia.
News is breaking about the role of the Indonesian military in the
murder of political activists in the province of Aceh last year in the
lead-up to local elections there. Investigative journalist Allan Nairn
is facing possible arrest for the exposé that shows the US-backed
Indonesian armed forces assassinated a series of civilian activists
last year.

The story is breaking
at a time when the White House is engaged in fierce behind-the-scenes
negotiations with Congress on whether to restore aid to the Indonesian
military, including one of its most notorious elements, the special
forces command known as Kopassus. President Obama had been scheduled to
visit Indonesia this week, but the trip was postponed until June due to
the healthcare debate.

Since Allan Nairn broke the news of the assassination program here on Democracy Now! last Friday, the Indonesian press has been buzzing with the allegations. A military spokesman told the Jakarta Globe
that the military is considering legal action against Allan Nairn.
Earlier today, Allan issued a public threat—a public challenge to the
Indonesian military to arrest him so that he could face off with the
military in open court.

Allan Nairn is no
stranger to the Indonesian military. In 1991, Allan and I survived a
massacre in East Timor, when more than 270 Timorese were killed by
US-backed Indonesian soldiers. In 1999, Allan sneaked back into East
Timor and reported on the Indonesian military atrocities there as the
Indonesian soldiers burned much of East Timor to the ground. They
arrested Allan, but he continued reporting from prison.

Well, last night we reached Allan in Indonesia to discuss the latest developments.

    ALLAN NAIRN: In
    the article, I described how the Indonesian armed forces, which are
    armed and trained by the United States, have been running a program of
    assassinating political activists, and I described in detail their
    assassinations in Aceh in 2009 in the run-up to the local elections
    there, where at least eight activists for the pro-independence PA,
    Partai Aceh, were assassinated. And I quote senior Indonesian officials
    saying that these assassinations were coordinated on the regional level
    by a general named Sunarko, a Kopassus general. I reached Sunarko on
    the phone, and he acknowledged to me that his men were involved in
    these assassinations. But he said, "But that doesn’t necessarily mean
    that this was a project of the military as an institution."

    He also, this general
    who ran the assassination program, told me that he was an enthusiastic
    supporter of President Obama’s plan to restore full aid to the
    Indonesian armed forces, and he then went on to describe in detail his
    own training by the United States. He says they’ve been training him
    since the 1980s. He regards them as close partners, and he loves
    Obama’s plan because he says it will make the partnership still more
    intimate, in his words. General Sunarko, the Kopassus general who in
    Timor in 1999 helped run the militias that burned 80 percent of the
    buildings in Timor, that conducted church massacres, etc., and who now
    has been running this assassinations program in Aceh, he said that he
    was trained by the US military, the US Pacific Command, mobile training
    teams in jungle warfare, logistics and many other subjects, and he said
    that he was most recently trained by the US in 2006. So he’s a very
    enthusiastic backer of Obama’s plan to restore aid for the US military,
    and specifically for Kopassus, the special forces, the most notorious
    unit of that military.

    Now, in response to
    this—a few hours ago, this story broke in the Indonesian press. It ran
    on TV. The government press agency put out a series of stories about
    it. Kompas, the main newspaper, had five or six stories about
    it. And the Indonesian army is now threatening to arrest me. They
    apparently are threatening to charge me with criminal defamation,
    which, under various Indonesian laws, can carry a sentence of four to
    six years.

    And I welcome this threat. I just put out a statement on my website
    saying I welcome this threat. They should arrest me, so that we can
    face—have a face-off in open court. And we’ll describe in open court,
    before the Indonesian public, how the Indonesian armed forces are
    assassinating civilians. I’ll detail the massacres, the disappearances,
    etc. And I will attempt to call TNI generals as witnesses and question
    them under oath and will also attempt to call US officials as
    witnesses—US officials from the White House, the CIA, the Pentagon, the
    State Department—and ask them, under oath, to tell the Indonesian
    public in a trial why they have been giving arms and training, year
    after year after year, to an Indonesian armed forces as they’ve been
    killing civilians.

    As the US has seen
    the results of their arming and training of people like General Sunarko
    of thousands of other top officers, the US has continued to pour in
    weapons and training to facilitate these murders. So I want to get a
    chance to put the CIA station chiefs, the US military attachés to
    Indonesia, the generals from the Pentagon, the national security
    advisers—maybe the presidents, if that’s legally possible—put them on
    the stand here in Indonesia in court and ask them, under oath, "Why did
    you do this? Why have you done this to the civilians of Indonesia?" and
    ask the same questions to Indonesian generals. So I’m challenging the
    Indonesian military, if they’re serious, if they really believe their
    own denials, I’m challenging them to arrest me.

    AMY GOODMAN: But,
    Allan, you’re talking about President Obama saying he’s going to
    restore aid to Kopassus and the Indonesian military. These killings
    took place in 2009. Were they getting the aid then?

    ALLAN NAIRN: The
    Indonesian military has always been getting aid from the US. After the
    Dili massacre in ’91, which we survived, the activist movement which
    grew up, including the East Timor Action Network, we succeeded in
    cutting off much of the aid, and especially after the 1999 massacre in
    Timor, after the Timorese voted for independence, almost all it was cut
    off. But there’s always been some. And over recent years, it has been
    slowly restored.

    And right now, the
    Indonesian defense ministry claims that 2,800 Indonesian military
    people are right now getting training in the United States. The US is
    now selling some weapons and equipment to the armed forces. The CIA and
    US—various covert US units have extensive programs going on with the
    Indonesian military and police. So, yes, they’re getting US backing
    right now.

    And Obama wants to
    strengthen that backing. If Obama succeeds in going ahead with his
    plan, if he’s not stopped by Congress and the US public, this will
    effectively be the ultimate green light to the Indonesian armed forces
    and their dreaded special forces, Kopassus, a green light to go ahead
    and do what they want to the Indonesian public. And many of the
    survivors of their terror are very worried about this.


AMY GOODMAN: We’ll
return to my interview with investigative journalist Allan Nairn in
Indonesia in a minute. He faces possible arrest. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: We
return to my interview with investigative journalist Allan Nairn in
Indonesia, facing possible arrest for exposing that US-backed
Indonesian armed forces assassinated a series of civilian activists
last year. The Indonesian military has publicly denied Allan’s report.

A spokesman for the armed forces, Air Vice Marshal Sagom Tamboen, told the Jakarta Globe
that the military is considering filing a legal complaint against
Nairn. Sagom said, quote, "If he is a good journalist and if he does
have evidence, then he should come forward with the information that he
has…But the problem is that [Nairn] hasn’t been able to give us any
clear evidence or tell us who his sources are. So how can we believe
him?" unquote.

Well, I asked Allan Nairn to respond to Sagom’s comments.

    ALLAN NAIRN: Well,
    first, he should read the article. The article lays out evidence. For
    example, the Indonesian police made a deal with the military and some
    other Indonesian officials, who stumbled across this assassination
    program and who weren’t supposed to know about it, and they actually
    detained a number of the low-level military and military-sponsored hit
    men who carried out one of the assassinations, the assassination of a
    man named Tumijan, who was a palm oil from Nagan Raya in Aceh. In that
    case, an officer named Captain Wahyu, a soldier named Oktavianus, and
    at least seven militia members, who work for the TNI, are under
    detention. I name them in my piece. The commander of the Aceh police
    confirmed to me, on the record—Police General Aditya confirmed to me,
    on the record, that these men had in fact been detained for these
    murders. General Sunarko, the Kopassus general who ran the
    assassination program, also confirmed to me that his subordinates had
    been detained for the Tumijan murder. That’s as specific as you can
    get.

    Yet, in their
    response, the Indonesian military doesn’t even mention these
    detentions, and neither does the Indonesian press, as far as I’ve been
    able to see so far. There seems to be some fear about reporting—about
    getting that specific about reporting the full facts about these
    military assassinations.

    AMY GOODMAN: Allan
    Nairn, I want to play for you President Obama being interviewed—I
    believe this was last Thursday, in the height of the healthcare debate.
    He had just—was just going to be announcing that he would be delaying
    his trip to Indonesia. But he did do an interview with Indonesian
    television. This is what he had to say.

      PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Obviously,
      there has been some controversy, in terms of military assistance in the
      past, but since the advent of democracy in Indonesia, what you’ve seen
      is the TNI make significant progress, separating itself out from the
      police, focusing more on broad external security issues, as opposed to
      internal security issues. And so, we’ve already begun more
      interactions, and our hope is, is that we can continue to improve on
      that front.

      REPORTER: Is
      that a signal that your administration is satisfied with the military
      reforms and the resolution of the past human rights abuses in
      Indonesia?

      PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well,
      I think that the—we have acknowledge that those past human rights
      abuses existed. And so, we can’t go forward without looking backwards
      and understanding that that was an enormous problem, not just for
      America, but it was a problem for the Indonesian people. We have seen
      significant progress, and so what we want to do is to continue to
      improve our consultation and move this forward into a more positive
      direction, because we want Indonesia to be a close partner for many
      years to come, and we want a prosperous and secure Indonesia.


    AMY GOODMAN: Can you respond, Allan Nairn, to what President Obama has said?

    ALLAN NAIRN: Well,
    Obama is saying these—he’s saying these crimes were in the distant
    past. These assassinations that I’m just reporting happened while Obama
    was president. They happened while Obama was president, while he was
    presiding over the training of, according to the Indonesian defense
    ministry, thousands of Indonesian military people. While he was
    shipping weapons and equipment to the Indonesian military, they were
    assassinating a political activist in Aceh, as Obama was sitting in the
    White House. So this is not a thing of the past.

    Secondly, when he
    refers to external security issues that the Indonesian armed forces are
    focusing on, I would challenge the President to name one. There is
    absolutely no external security threat to Indonesia. Singapore is not
    about to invade. Australia is not about to invade. What the Indonesian
    armed forces are focusing on is what they’ve always focused on: the
    internal repression of the population. And now it’s most intensive in
    the eastern part of the country, in Papua, which is under de facto
    occupation. But also, they were doing these—they’ve been doing these
    political assassinations in Aceh. So what Obama says is just false.

    AMY GOODMAN: Finally,
    Allan, President Obama says he will be going to Indonesia in June. What
    is happening between now and then? How set in stone is the resumption
    of aid to the Indonesian military?

    ALLAN NAIRN: Well,
    that’s a good question. The pact, the aid deal, has not yet been
    announced. It was due to be announced when Obama was due to be here, in
    fact probably would have been announced yesterday. And now it’s a bit
    up in the air. So if the US public and Congress would weigh in now and
    demand that Obama stop all aid to Kopassus, stop all aid to the
    Indonesian armed forces, there is some chance that this package could
    be defeated or cut back. So this is an opportunity. The delay of
    Obama’s trip is an opportunity to save some lives, prevent some further
    murders in Indonesia, by again cutting off US aid to this military.


AMY GOODMAN: Investigative journalist Allan Nairn speaking from Indonesia, again facing arrest.

To talk more about
this story, we’re joined by Damien Kingsbury. He’s a professor at
Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, the author of several books
on Indonesia, including Power Politics and the Indonesian Military. In 2006, he was on the negotiating team to the Aceh peace agreement.

Welcome to Democracy Now!,
Professor Kingsbury. If you could briefly talk about the significance
of Allan Nairn’s exposé and what is happening now in Indonesia and the
US relationship with it, what renewed aid would mean.

DAMIEN KINGSBURY: Well,
there is already a significant level of military aid to Indonesia. It
has been carrying out for a number of years what Allan specifically
referred to. And the real problem now is the renewal of aid to
Kopassus, the special forces, which, as Allan has correctly pointed
out, is guilty of numerous human rights abuses up until, we know for a
fact, the end of last year. We also know that human rights abuses are
continuing to occur, almost as we speak, in West Papua. So this is an
organization that has not reformed and continues to perpetrate the
sorts of crimes that the Leahy Amendment, American legislation, bans
the United States government from assisting with.

AMY GOODMAN: And the significance of the threats by the Indonesian military right now around what Allan has exposed?

DAMIEN KINGSBURY: Well,
look, if I was Allan and if I was in Indonesia, I think I’d be pretty
concerned, because, of course, he’s being very brave, and if he goes to
court, he may well have his moment in the sun, but the courts are
notoriously corrupt, and the military does hold great sway over the
judicial process. So he would not get a fair hearing. He would not get
to call the witnesses he wants. He would be found guilty. He would go
to jail. I mean, apart from [inaudible], I think they would concoct a
visa violation, a crime against him, and that, in itself, would mean
that he could go to jail for several years.

AMY GOODMAN: But
is it possible they would have to then deal with the public being the
audience to the exposé that Allan has just done, both at Democracy Now! and at "http://www.allannairn.com">allannairn.com?

DAMIEN KINGSBURY: I
guess what we’re assuming here is they have the same sort of open
system that we have in more developed Western countries, such as the
United States and Australia. The reality is that Kopassus officers have
been charged with various crimes in the past, and they have even
occasionally—not often, but occasionally—taken to court. And what
Kopassus does is they stack the gallery. They stop people from
entering. They intimidate the judges. And the very few sentences that
are handed down are very light, given the crimes that they are up on,
which are usually murder and the like. And very often these people are
actually exonerated and allowed to go free. So it’s not an open
judicial process. It’s not the sort of judicial process that we would
expect to see in a developed Western country. And there being anything
like a fair trial, I think, would be a very big ask at this stage.

AMY GOODMAN: Damien Kingsbury, I want to thank you for being with us, professor at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia.

DAMIEN KINGSBURY: My pleasure.

AMY GOODMAN: Among his books, Power Politics and the Indonesian Military.


Link: www.democracynow.org/2010/3/24/exclusivejournalist_allan_nairn_facing_possible_a
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