Subject: WSJ Letter: Indonesia's Judiciary Is Far From Fixed

also: The Wall Street Journal Jan. 2 editorial referred to below: Jakarta's Judiciary

The Wall Street Journal Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Indonesia's Judiciary Is Far From Fixed

Your editorial describing reform of the Indonesian judiciary as "slow ... but progressing" badly misrepresents the reality there ("Jakarta's Judiciary," Jan. 2). Your editorial reasonably argues that the recent acquittal of Abu Bakar Bashir, who was accused of ties to the 2002 Bali bombing, was appropriate insofar as the prosecution badly botched the case.

But any conclusion that the Indonesian court system is reforming ignores other court malfeasance that may not be high on the U.S. agenda but nevertheless underscores grave, persisting problems. The courts in Indonesia recently overturned the conviction of the only man convicted of involvement in the 2004 murder of Indonesia's most effective human rights advocate, Munir, who was poisoned. Also in 2006, Indonesian courts failed to convict a single police official involved in the Abepura incident in which police beat 100 Papuan students, killing three.

In both of these cases the courts quailed at the prospect of holding the Indonesian security forces accountable, a problem that remains the most serious threat to Indonesian democracy.

Edmund McWilliams Falls Church, Virginia

(The writer is a retired U.S. Foreign Service Officer who served as Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta from 1996 to 1999.)


The Wall Street Journal January 2, 2007


Jakarta's Judiciary

The recent acquittal of Abu Bakar Bashir, the al Qaeda-linked spiritual leader accused of inspiring the Bali bombings, brought condemnations aplenty. But not much was said about why Indonesia's Supreme Court allowed Mr. Bashir, who had been released in June, to clear his name. The prosecution bungled the case so badly that the High Court had little option.

Mr. Bashir is assuredly a nasty character. As these pages have chronicled, the cleric has, for decades, preached jihad and envisioned a hard-line Islamic state in Indonesia, a democratic and broadly moderate nation. His students have been linked to the 2002 Bali bombings, which killed 202 people. Australian authorities have said repeatedly that they're convinced that Mr. Bashir was involved in the attacks.

But the state simply didn't prove its case. Video testimony obtained from suspects held in Singapore didn't pass the court's test of non-coercion. Key witnesses didn't show up to testify. Prosecutors instead relied on vague statements that Mr. Bashir made to Amrozi bin Nurhasyim, who was convicted and executed for carrying out the attacks. (Mr. Bashir reportedly told Amrozi "it was up to you" to proceed in Bali.)

"It was not the kind of evidence that most judges would accept as conclusive," Sidney Jones, the International Crisis Group's South East Asia project director wrote to us by e-mail. Reform of the endemically corrupt courts is slow, but progressing. Last year, for the first time in decades, a judge was put in jail for corruption.

Jakarta has a strong track record in prosecuting terrorists; since 2004 it has convicted 250.

Abu Bakar Bashir may be a force for evil. But from what we can tell, the Supreme Court did what any other reputable judiciary would do: It looked at the facts. And in this case, they didn't stack up. -end-

------------------------------------------ Joyo Indonesia News Service

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