Ahead of presidential debate, Prabowo gathers victims of 1997-98 abductions

Kompas.com – December 11, 2023
Activists and victims of abductions at press conference in Jakarta – December 11, 2023 (Kompas)

Ihsanuddin, Jakarta – The Prabowo Subianto-Gibran Rakabuming Raka national campaign team (TKN) has gathered together a number of activists and victims of the 1997-98 abduction of pro-democracy activists ahead of the first official presidential election (Pilpres) debate, which will be held by the General Elections Commission (KPU) tomorrow on Tuesday December 12.

Prabowo-Gibran TKN Secretary Nusron Wahid has admitted the victims of the abductions were gathered in relation to the themes that that will be discussed in tomorrow's debate, one of which is human rights.

"The first is related to the topic of legal issues, the second is related to human rights, number three is prevention and eradication of corruption, number four is governance, number five is strengthening democracy, number six is handling disinformation and harmony among citizens", said Wahid during a press conference at the Prabowo-Gibran TKN Media Center in Jakarta on Monday December 11.

A number of activists and victims of the 1997-98 abductions were present at the press conference.

Wahid said the people present were supporters of the Prabowo and Rakabuming presidential election ticket including former People's Democratic Party (PRD) leaders Budiman Sudjatmiko and Andi Arief, and the PRD's current chairperson, Agus Jabo Priyono who is also the chairperson of the People's Justice and Prosperity Party (Prima).

Also present were anti-corruption activist Irma Hutabarat, Papuan human rights activist Natalius Pigai and non-government organisation (NGO) activist Rachland Nashidik.

"Certainly questions will arise [about human rights] because every five years when Pak [Mr] Prabowo takes part in the Pilpres it gets linked to Pak Prabowo's past, Pak Prabowo's past relationship with Pak Budiman Sudjatmiko", said Wahid.

"Left of Budiman is Irma Hutabarat, an anti-corruption activist and one of founders of ICW [Indonesian Corruption Watch]. There is Andi Arief a victim of the abductions that year, along with Budiman beside him", he said.

Wahid also emphasised that Prabowo's past issues has been fully resolved.

"Because at every moment in the debate, especially the issue of democratisation, human rights, are always associated with past problems that have already been properly buried, and have been fully resolved with regard to several figures, one of which is Pak Prabowo", he added.


In 1997-98 as many as 23 pro-democracy activists were abducted by members of the Army's Special Forces (Kopassus). After extended periods of detention – in many cases the victims were severely tortured – most were released although 13 remain missing and are presumed dead. Former Kopassus commander Lieutenant General Prabowo Subianto, who was at the time President Suharto's son-in-law, has admitted to ordering the abductions but claims they were all released alive and well. He was subsequently discharged from the military over the abductions but has never been tried in court. Currently serving as Defense Minister, he is running as a presidential candidate alongside President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's eldest son Gibran Rakabuming Raka in the 2024 elections.

Following a widely reported meeting with Prabowo in July 2023, Sudjatmiko publically expressed his support for Prabowo's presidential bid and stated that the former Special Forces general should not be held hostage by past human rights abuses. In response dozens of former PRD activists held a press conference in Jakarta and accused Sudjatmiko of betraying the reform movement and called for perpetrators of past rights abuses to be arrested and tried. Sudjatmiko has since joined Prabowo's election campaign team and publically defended Prabowo rights record on several occasions.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "TKN Prabowo-Gibran Kumpulkan Aktivis dan Korban Penculikan 98 Jelang Debat soal HAM".]

Source: https://nasional.kompas.com/read/2023/12/11/16413201/tkn-prabowo-gibran-kumpulkan-aktivis-dan-korban-penculikan-98-jelang-debat