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Indonesian rights groups voice alarm over killing of activist

Military involvement sparks call for transparent probe into conservationist's murder

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Indonesian rights groups voice alarm over killing of activist
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Indonesian rights groups have called for a thorough and transparent investigation into the murder of an environmental activist at the weekend.

Jopi Teguh Lesmana Perangin-angin from the Bogor-based Sawit Watch, an NGO dealing with the negative impacts of palm oil plantations in Indonesia, was stabbed to death on Saturday night outside a nightclub in Jakarta.

Witnesses and police say the activist was killed during an altercation between his friends and off-duty navy personnel.

According to Executive Director of Sawit Watch Jefri Gideon Saragih, the 39-year-old environmentalist had just concluded a research report on oil palm plantation companies in North Kalimantan and Central Sulawesi that allegedly used corruption and bribery to secure their licenses.

“The plan is that the result of his research will be released by the end of this month,” he told ucanews.com.        

Although it remains unclear whether there was a political motive behind the murder, the fact that the suspect is a member of the military has rattled rights groups and other activists.

“Let the police discover the facts. We hope the police will be transparent if, in fact, this case is related to Jopi’s activities,” Saragih said.

In a statement issued on Monday, Solidarity for Jopi — a group of activists and NGOs including Sawit Watch and the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS) — urged police to immediately reveal the results of their investigation thus far.

“We think a public exposé of the investigation results is important to show the authorities are transparent with the legal process,” the group said.

It also called on the National Commission on Human Rights to monitor the case and make sure the investigation is done fairly and transparently.

Jakarta Police spokesman Senior Commander Muhammad Iqbal on Tuesday said the investigation was still ongoing. He admitted the chief suspect was a navy sailor but refused to speculate about the motive behind Jopi’s murder.

“For sure, the perpetrator is a naval soldier,” he told ucanews.com on Tuesday.

On Monday Iqbal told reporters that the South Jakarta Police were working with the Navy’s Military Police on the case.

“However, we still don’t know the identity of the perpetrator yet,” the Jakarta Post quoted him as saying.

He also said that the police were examining closed-circuit television footage from the scene and questioning witnesses.

National Police spokesman Senior Commander Rikwanto, who only goes by one name, promised that the police would reveal all the facts surrounding the case.

“We are doing our best,” he told ucanews.com.

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