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Police try to silence anti-mining protests by charging activist with 'spreading communism'

Tempo - September 4, 2017

Ika Ningtyas, Banyuwangi – Heri Budiawan alias Budi Pego, an activist opposing a gold mine in Banyuwangi, East Java, has been indicted under the draconian anti-communist articles.

Budi was thrown into the Banyuwangi Prison on Monday September 4 after the state prosecutor declared that the police investigation report (BAP) was complete or P21.

Budi was arrested at around 12 noon. He has been charged under Article 107 Section (a) of Law Number 27/1999 on Revisions to the Criminal Code related to crimes against state security.

The article states that anyone who spreads or develops communist, Marxist or Leninist teachings in any form or manifestation faces a maximum jail term of 12 years.

The case began on April 4 when hundreds of residents in the Pesanggaran sub-district held an action in which they put up banners opposing the gold mine operated by PT Damai Suksesindo (PT DSI).

The messages on the banners were written earlier in the morning at Budi's house by three local residents. The banners were then put up along the length of the village road from the sub-district administration offices to Red Island beach.

That evening however, Budi was visited by police officers who accused him of drawing an image of the hammer-and-sickle on one of the banners. Police showed him several photos as evidence.

"Yet when we wrote drew the banners it was watched over by six police officers, not one had a hammer-and-sickle logo", said Budi when contacted by Tempo before being arrested Monday.

In addition to Budi, three other local residents were arrested and declared suspects on May 15. They are Cipto Andreas (19), Trimanto (20) and Dwi Ratna Sari (23).

Budi related how since 2014 he took part in scores of protest actions against the mining company PT Bumi Suksesindo (PT BSI) which began mining the Tumpang Pitu Mountain in 2012.

In 2017 PT DSI began exploration of 6,623.55 hectares of land on the Salakan Mountain. PT BSI and PT DSI are subsidiary companies of PT Merdeka Copper Gold.

The arrest of the 37-year-old man angered and saddened residents and relatives who have been following the case. They believe that the arrest in aimed at silencing resistance by local people against the gold mine in the south coast of Pesanggaran sub-district. "Budi Pego's arrest will silence local people", said local resident Ratna.

One of Budi's lawyers, Subagyo, said that they will submit a request for a suspension of the arrest. "Our client has always been cooperative, it's impossible for him to flee", said the advocate from the Surabaya Legal Aid Foundation (LBH). In total there are 18 lawyers assisting the four suspects.

Subagyo explained that the case has been pushed through because there is no evidence supporting the spread of communist teachings. Moreover not one of the eight banners confiscated by police had a hammer-and-sickle logo on them.

The banners are being used as material evidence by police who handed over to the prosecutor's office. "This is an example of how the law can be used to intimidate local people who are resisting", he said.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was Aktivis Penolak Tambang Ditahan dengan Jeratan Pasal Komunisme.]

Source: https://m.tempo.co/read/news/2017/09/04/063905873/aktivis-penolak-tambang-ditahan-dengan-jeratan-pasal-komunisme.

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