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Anti-mine protesters demand release of activist charged with 'spreading communist ideas'

Tempo - January 9, 2018

Ika Ningtyas, Jakarta – Scores of residents in the Pesanggaran sub-district of Banyuwangi, East Java, held a protest action demanding the release of their colleague, Heri Budiawan, who is being tried for spreading communist ideas.

During the action the protesters handed out 500 kilograms of dragon fruit to residents in the vicinity of the rally.

The protest took place north of the Banyuwangi District Court on Jl. Adi Sucipto. The protesters brought the dragon fruit in a pickup truck which was divided into plastic bags weighing 1 kilogram.

The protesters invited road users to take a dragon fruit for free. "This is evidence farmers can prosper without mining", said a representative of the protesters, Zaenal Arifin, on Tuesday January 9.

The protest action was held to coincide with a court hearing scheduled to hear the reading out of the defendant's defense speech.

In addition to handing out the dragon fruit, the protesters held a theatrical action, sang, gave speeches and unfurled banners reading "Banyuwangi Rejects the Tumpang Pitu Mine" and "Banyuwangi Rejects Criminalisation".

Heri Budiawan alias Budi Pego has been charged under Article 107 Paragraph (a) of Law Number 27/1999 on Revisions to the Criminal Code related to crimes against state security. At a hearing on January 4, the public prosecutor demanded that Budi be sentenced to seven years jail.

Budi Pego stands accused of spreading communist, Marxist and Leninist ideas after the symbol of the hammer-and-sickle was allegedly found on a banner when scores of local residents were protesting against the gold mine on April 4, 2017.

According to the prosecution's charges, the banner with the hammer-and-sickle was made at Budi's house and he was the coordinator of the protests.

The banner with the hammer-and-sickle was reported to the Banyuwangi district police by Bambang Widjonarko on April 8, 2017. At the time, Widjonarko still held the position of Senior Manager for External Affairs at PT Bumi Suksesindo (PT BSI), the operator of the mine at Tumpang Pitu Mountain which residents were protesting against.

"Budi Pego is not a communist. All of us residents reject the mine", said Fitri Yati, one of the local residents who spoke at the rally.

Around 300 metres away, protesters from several organisations also held a counter protest. They came from the Pancasila Youth, the Voice of Blambangan Forum and the Indonesian Religious Community Defense Forum, and demanded that the panel of judges hand down a heaver sentence against Budi Pego.

According to the groups, the prosecutor's demand for a seven-year sentence is too light given that the maximum sentence under Article 107(a) is 12 years jail. "Save the NKRI [Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia] and [the state ideology of] Pancasila from communism", said Hanan, one of the speakers.

Inside the court Budi Pego read out his nine-page hand-written defense speech. According to Budi, neither he nor any of the local residents protesting at the time made any banners with the logo of the hammer-and-sickle. "The banners were intentionally tampered with by people with a specific goal", he said between sobs.

Budi said that he opposed the gold mine at Tumpang Pitu Mountain because the mountain is a natural barrier against tsunamis. In 1994, a tsunami hit his village resulting in the death of hundreds of people.

The coordinator of the legal defense team, Abdul Wachid, asserted that the prosecution's case is being forced through and has ignored the facts revealed in the trail.

Not one of the eight banners used as material evidence had a logo of the hammer-and-sickle communist symbol on them. Moreover not one witness testified that they saw the defendant instructing others to make banners at his house with the hammer-and-sickle. "We ask that the defendant be released from all of the charges", said Wachid.

PT Bumi Suksesindo's Corporate Communications Manager T. Mufizar Mahmud said that PT BSI never submitted a report with the authorities in relation to the hammer-and-sickle banners.

Up until now, said Mufizar, his company has focused on raising the local community's standard of living and prosperity through various programs such as education, healthcare, social programs and infrastructure. "People have the right to demonstrate", said Mufizar in an email message on January 5.

Mufizar adding that the BSI mine was designated as a strategic national project by the government in February 2016. Therefore, he said, the BSI is a national asset which is owned by the Banyuwangi regency government has had a strategic impact in promoting regional and national economic growth.

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the article was Warga di Banyuwangi Tuntut Pembebasan Terdakwa Kasus Komunisme.]

Source: https://nasional.tempo.co/read/1048774/warga-di-banyuwangi-tuntut-pembebasan-terdakwa-kasus-komunisme.

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