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Arrests and beatings at land grab demo

Protesters allege police brutality

Ryan Dagur, Jakarta
Indonesia

January 30, 2013

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Three environmental activists and 23 farmers were arrested and allegedly beaten by police officers on Tuesday in Ogan Ilir district in South Sumatra during a land grab protest in front of police headquarters.

The protester staged the rally to urge the police to force a sugar company to return land to local farmers.

“We were attacked by thousands of police officers, yes, after the police headquarters’ gate was damaged,” said Anwar Sadat, executive director of the province’s Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI) who allegedly suffered a serious head injury after being hit with a blunt weapon.

According to a statement issued today by WALHI and several NGOs, the land dispute between local farmers and the state-owned sugarcane plantation company PTPN VII Cinta Manis began in 1982.

It is alleged that the company intimidated and manipulated local farmers to get 20,500 hectares, and paid only 25,000 rupiah (US$2.70) per hectare in compensation to the farmers, rather than the required 150,000 rupiah.

“The national police chief must order the province’s police chief to release 12 farmers and environmentalists, to withdraw police officers from the village, and to conduct an investigation into the land dispute,” WALHI said in the statement.

Fourteen farmers were released early Wednesday.

WALHI’s Hadi Jatmiko said his organization and the Legal Aid Institute in Palembang, the provincial capital, will file a case against the police.

R. Djarod Padakova, a  spokesman from the province’s police headquarters, maintained that the farmers and environmentalists were arrested when the protest turned violent. 

“They were secured as they started to push and attack police officers with bamboo flag poles,” he told detikNews.com. 

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