Latest developments in the arrested Medan students' case
The following is an interview by an FKMA reporter with a student from Medan, conducted on the 1st of September 2013 in Jakarta. The aim of the interview was to find out the latest developments in a case where police arrested students in an action protesting the fuel price rise in Medan last June, in a clear violation of human rights.
FKMA : What are the latest developments around these arrests which have affected Medan's student community?
Student : There are currently 16 students still in prison who were officially declared suspects on 16th August 2013. Many of them are still suffering from broken bones from the police violence during their arrests.
FKMA : Originally how many people were arrested?
Student : On the day of the action there were 87 people arrested. In the end only 16 of them were officially declared suspects. Nevertheless this is an act of criminalisation towards the whole student movement, and we are convinced it is an attempt to systematically paralyse the student movement here in Medan.
FKMA : Can you explain a little more what you mean by 'systematically paralyse'?
Student : It's like this, in this case many students who were not in the area when the action took place whose names have been placed on the police wanted list as people who damaged property during the fuel price protests. Many of the names that have appeared on the wanted list no longer live in Medan but strangely they are being accused of being ringleaders in the action against the fuel price rise. I believe that this is the police and state's strategy to terrorise anyone who participates in the struggle for justice. What is stranger still, most of the people whose names appear on the wanted list haven't been subsequently arrested, even though the police are well aware of their whereabouts. This seems to be the state's strategy of creating divisions and conflict, by making it seem as if those who weren't arrested have been flirting with the police. “The police want those students who have been imprisoned to stand trial to accuse other students that are on the wanted list, but who haven't been arrested, of being traitors and police assets”. Because of this assumption feelings of distrust are growing within the Medan student movement, especially between the different student groups.
FKMA : What laws are the students being accused under?
Student : Criminal damage to public property and resistance to authority.
FKMA : Which universities do the students which are charged as suspects attend?
Student : 12 people from Universitas HKBP Nomensen, 1 from Universitas Sumatera Utara, 1 from Institut Teknologi Medan, 1 from Universitas Budi Dharma dan 1 from Universitas Negeri Medan.
FKMA : Which groups are providing legal support in the case?
Student : There are three : Kontras (a national human rights NGO) , Komnas HAM (the National Human Rights Commission) and Cicak Buaya (meaning a gecko which stands up to a crocodile)
FKMA : What is Cicak Buaya's role?
Student : Cicak Buaya is a group that provides legal aid towards our friends that were arrested. Previously, before founding Cicak Buaya, the people involved had suffered a similar fate. In 2007 they (students in Nommensen at the time) opposed the management of their university, which they felt was undemocratic, but in the end they were expelled from the university. This was the spark of violence and riots broke out on the Nommensen campus in 2007. Students were angry about the undemocratic nature of the expulsions but were also a sign of the military's involvement, which wanted to wipe out the student movement. That incident in 2007 provided the basis for the criminalisation of dozens of students. Once they were released from prison, they continued to study law and became lawyers. Because they felt that the same sort of situation was bound to arise in the future, they felt it was necessary to set up a legal support organisation. That's a short history, more or less.
FKMA : Sorry, I forgot, when does the trial start?
Mahasiswa : The first session is on the 4th September 2013
FKMA : Anything you want to let others know in connection with this case ?
Student : Apart from building up solidarity around this case, I want to tell the student movement that there is nothing else to do except move forwards so “keep motivated” and “act wisely” in your resistance.
FKMA = Forum Komunikasi Masyarakat Agraris