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Indonesian human rights defenders accused of defamation

Police allege slander against a minister over controversial mining operations in Papua province

Indonesian human rights defenders accused of defamation

Haris Azhar, executive director of Lokataru Law and Human Rights Office, speaks at a livestreamed press briefing on March 20. (Photo: Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence’s YouTube channel)

Published: March 21, 2022 09:34 AM GMT

Updated: March 21, 2022 09:48 AM GMT

Indonesian police have named two human rights activists as suspects for allegedly defaming a minister in a talk show while discussing the findings of a report on the mining business in Papua province’s Intan Jaya district.

Haris Azhar, executive director of Lokataru Law and Human Rights Office, and Fatia Maulidiyanti, coordinator of the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS), have been accused of defaming Coordinating Minister for Maritime and Investment Affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan.

Jakarta police spokesman Endra Zulpan said on March 18 that the case was based on evidence collected by them, including footage of the talk show uploaded on Azhar’s YouTube channel.

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The talk show episode titled "There is Lord Luhut behind the Economic Relations-Military Operations Intan Jaya" featured Azhar and Maulidiyanti discussing the findings of a recent report revealing the alleged involvement of several military figures in the mining industry in the Intan Jaya district.

It was further claimed in the video that the minister owns shares of one of the companies involved in mining operations in the Wabu Block area of the district.

Zulpan said the two suspects were summoned by police for questioning on March 21.

"I did enjoy reading the report and thanked my fellow activists for writing it. That is why I immediately held the talk show to discuss the report”

Earlier, Azhar had said in a livestreamed press briefing that he would not stay silent as “it is not merely about me defending myself.”

“I will take proactive efforts … I was calm but the arrogance of the state and authorities went on. So I will use my rights to take proactive efforts, to take legal things during the questioning,” he said.

According to him, he just amplified the report written by nine groups, including KontraS.

“It is said there are allegations over complex issues, such as conflict of interest, abuse of power, gain of profit … I did enjoy reading the report and thanked my fellow activists for writing it. That is why I immediately held the talk show to discuss the report,” he said.

Lamenting that police ignored the fact that he just elaborated on the report, Azhar said the report must be examined. “If not, I will report back to the minister. I will move forward, never retreat,” he asserted.

"Both Azhar and Maulidiyanti only discussed the report. In fact, they paved the way for law enforcement officers to conduct an investigation over allegations mentioned in the report"

Speaking with UCA News, Father John Djonga, an activist priest in Papua, said the case smacked of “the state’s effort to silence activists.”

“Both Azhar and Maulidiyanti only discussed the report. In fact, they paved the way for law enforcement officers to conduct an investigation over allegations mentioned in the report. But it ended up with their naming as suspects. This is a big question,” he said.

Muhammadiyah general secretary Abdul Mu’ti called the activists “two legal heroes who consistently defend the truth” and further described them as “persons with integrity.” He said police should be objective in handling the case.

Meanwhile, Juniver Girsang, a lawyer of the minister who filed a police report against the activists in August last year, hoped that the case will be brought to court soon.

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