Abri plans to punish 160 soldiers

They are held responsible for using excessive force against protesters during recent clashes in Jakarta.

MORE than 160 Indonesian armed forces (Abri) personnel would be punished for using excessive force against thousands of demonstrators during the bloody clashes that rocked the capital two weeks ago, said an armed forces official.

Abri spokesman, Major-General Syamsul Mu’arif, also said that “irregularities” had been found in autopsies of the dead that indicated that live ammunition was used. But he denied that they were of any type used by the armed forces.

The military has insisted that it fired only rubber bullets and blanks into the protesting students, demanding deeper political reforms.

Armed Forces Chief General Wiranto, addressing a press conference here yesterday, blamed “certain radical groups” for the bloody clashes between troops and students on Nov 13, which left 15 dead.

Maj-Gen Syamsul said the military would discipline 144 soldiers who violated orders and fired rubber bullets at protesters, and 12 ground commanders who failed to control their troops. Most of them are likely to be court-martialled and stripped of their rank.

“Many of the soldiers over-reacted to the situation, which is why we had to take firm action against them,” he told the press conference.

But he stopped short of suggesting the troops had used live bullets against the students and other demonstrators, saying that checks by military police showed no evidence of this.

“We carried out investigations the morning after the incident and found no evidence that any of our soldiers used bullets that killed the demonstrators,” he said.

The bullet used was of a different make and size compared to standard Abri-issued rounds, he said. They were 5.56 mm in diameter and exploded on entering the victim, lodging fragments in their body and sometimes making two exit holes.

He would not give further details, except to say that ballistic tests were still being carried out. A forensic scientist involved in the investigation said last week that they were of high velocity type.

Autopsies of dead victims also suggested that they were shot at long range. Maj-Gen Syamsul refused to comment if this indicated that snipers could have been used in the killings.

He also maintained that the death toll was far lower than what was believed, saying that five were killed and 120 injured, in what is now known as the Black Friday tragedy.

The state Antara news agency yesterday reported that another student injured during last week’s clashes died yesterday at a private hospital, bringing the death toll from the violence to 15, eight of them students.

General Wiranto yesterday offered his condolences to the dead, and said that Abri was still investigating the causes of Indonesia’s worst violence after the May riots.

He blamed radicals for infiltrating the student-led demonstrations to provoke thousands into confronting Abri troops in militant fashion. Their main aim was to disrupt the special session of the country’s highest legislative body, the People’s Consultative Body.

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