Jakarta – Civil society activists from a variety of backgrounds have called for the release of human rights defenders Fatia Maulidiyanti and Haris Azhar ahead of the reading out of a verdict in a defamation case against the pair on Monday January 8 at the East Jakarta District Court.
Suciwati, the wife of renowned human rights activist Munir Said Thalib who was assassinated in 2004, believes that the ongoing case against Maulidiyanti and Azhar shows that injustice is on full display at the East Jakarta District Court.
"How can the prosecutor who should work for the ordinary people instead work to curry favor with [those in] power. It should be, this trial did not need to have been held but was pushed through, a perverted trial carried out by state officials who should work for the people", said Suciwati as quoted on the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) Instagram account @kontras_update.
Suciwati stated that dragging Maulidiyanti and Azhar before the court just because they were discussing research results in the public interest cannot be tolerated.
"We have the right to be critical. We must continue to stand with Haris and Fatia, and demand their release so this country can show a face of justice. Free Fatia-Haris", said Suciwati.
Maria Catarina Sumarsih, the mother of Benardinus Realino Norma Irawan (Wawan), a victim of the Semanggi I student shootings in 1998, said the public cannot remain silent over the case faced by Maulidiyanti and Azhar.
According to Sumarsih, the threat of criminalisation experienced by the pair could happen to any member of the public.
"Fatia and Haris are threatened with imprisonment. It is quite possible it could also threaten us tomorrow. We have the right to be critical. Don't let the authorities abuse their power. The law should not be used as a protector for egotistic and greedy rulers", said Sumarsih.
"Don't let [our] natural wealth be looted by robbers wearing ties. Don't be silent. Free Fatia and Haris", she asserted.
Meanwhile, novelist Okky Madasari said that every citizen has the right to criticise public officials. What Maulidiyanti and Azhar did, according to Madasari, represents criticism that should not result in imprisonment.
"Criticising public officials is the right of every citizen. Today Haris and Fatia are threatened with being imprisoned, tomorrow we could experience the same thing. Free Fatia-Haris. We have the right to be critical", said Madasari.
Former Corruption Investigation Commission (KPK) senior investigator Novel Baswedan has also given his support to Maulidiyanti and Azhar. He said that he regrets that public officials are responding to criticism by citizens with criminalisation.
"Criticising public officials is the right of every citizen. If you don't want to be criticised, you shouldn't become an official, because officials have duties and responsibilities in the public interest. So, it is very normal to be criticised", said Baswedan.
"Today we know that Haris and Fatia will be imprisoned, and of course this cannot be allowed. We have to fight this because tomorrow this could threaten us. We have the right to be critical. Free Haris and Fatia", continued Baswedan.
Senior economist Faisal Basri and academic Rocky Gerung also called for the release of Maulidiyanti and Azhar. According to them, it is very reasonable for public officials to be criticised because they hold their position based on the consent of citizens.
"The power of the state and its officials must be limited and monitored so that it does not transform into a despotic monster or a despotic leviathan, a giant who is tyrannical and oppressive. Especially so in a situation where state power is intertwined with business power. The boundary between the rulers and business people is becoming thinner", said Basri.
"Therefore, criticising public officials is the right of every citizen. It feels increasingly important to have this social control, because the DPR's [House of Representatives] checks and balances function has almost disappeared", added Basri.
"Today Haris and Fatia's freedom to criticize power is under threat. We have the right to be critical. Free Haris and Fatia", said Gerung.
The case that has entangled Maulidiyanti and Azhar began with a video uploaded on Azhar's YouTube account titled There is Lord Luhut behind the Economic Relations-Military Operations in Intan Jaya!! There are also State Intelligence Agency Generals!! NgeHAMtam.
In the video, Maulidiyanti and Azhar discuss a Clean Indonesia Coalition study titled The Economics and Politics of Military Deployment in Papua: The Intan Jaya Case which showed the involvement of Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Binsar Panjaitan in mining businesses in Papua.
Unwilling to accept this, last year Pandjaitan reported them to the police for alleged defamation.
During the ongoing trial process, a number of witnesses, including Pandjaitan testified before the panel of judges. Meanwhile Maulidiyanti and Azhar refused to testify against each other. (ryn/wis)
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Seruan Bebaskan Fatia-Haris Menggema Jelang Sidang Vonis".]