Time running out in seeking justice for slain journalist


[Original title: Time running out in seeking justice for slain journalist in Indonesia]

udinnnnnn“Who killed Udin?” This is a question the media community in Indonesia is pursuing, in its efforts to bring justice in the killing of Fuad Muhammad Syafruddin, fondly known as Udin, from August 1996. Time is running out as the window of the investigations into and prosecution of the killer/s will close in August 2014. Without a legal remedy, Udin’s case becomes another example of impunity in a country where journalists have been targeted for their work in reporting on corruption and abuse of power.

To date, the authorities have denied that the case has been ignored, yet little progress has been made since the arrest and trial of a suspect, whom Udin’s family and the journalists believe is a scapegoat. The police in Yogyakarta, where Udin lived and worked, insist that they are still investigating the case but face difficulties in collecting evidence and getting adequate witnesses.

The Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (Alliance for Independent Jouranlists, AJI) launched a campaign in May 2012, calling for more concerted efforts by the state to bring the perpetrators to justice in Udin’s case.

Udin was a committed reporter

Udin, who hailed from  Bantul, Yogyakarta in Java became a reporter at the Bernas Daily since 1986 at a young age of 22.  He mainly wrote articles critical of the policies and corruption involving the Indonesian government and military. His superior, R. Soebandi, a member of the Bernas Editorial Committee, recalls about Udin: “From the beginning it was clear that Udin was a serious man who did not like to waste time on petty matters.”

In the months leading to his death, Udin was covering the election of the Regent for the Bantul district. The incumbent then, Sri Roso Sudarmo, was seeking reelection, and Udin had reported on alleged corruption involving the candidate. This was based on an anonymous letter that claimed the candidate had provided funds amounting to Rupiah 1 billion—then approximately USD 435,000—to a large foundation in Jakarta, called the Dharmais Foundation – a charity that was led by then President Suharto. Evidence that emerged later revealed that Sri Roso had expressed willingness to assist the Foundation if he was reelected for the 1996-2001 term.  For his reports, Udin received anonymous threats and was harassed. A day before he was attacked, Udin was stalked by an unknown person.

The incident in August 1996

On Tuesday night, at 11:30 pm 13 August  1996, Udin was confronted by an unidentified man in front of his home in Dusun Gelangan Samalo.  After the altercation, Udin was critically injured and was taken for treatment at the Bethesda Hospital in Yogyakarta.  He soon fell into a coma .  The next morning, Udin underwent brain surgery at the hospital but succumbed to the injury to his head that was too severe, He died on Friday, 16 August 1996, at 4:50 pm.

Police investigation/trial update

Police’s investigation into the murder was sloppy at the start of the case. Similar to many criminal cases in Indonesia,  criminal investigation is burdened with bureaucracy and many cases go unsolved.  Despite numerous efforts by Udin’s colleagues to pressure the police into further  investigations, the process left too many gaps.

Udin’s wife, Marsiyem maintains her doubt that Udin’s killer was DWI Sumaji Udin, known as Iwik, who is now on trial in the District Court of Bantul.  Marsiyem was shown a picture of Iwik, and she was  confident that Iwik was not the killer.  It has been reported that Iwik was offered a deal to confess to the crime, during questioning by Chief of Police Colonel DIY (Pol) Mulyana Sulaiman. However, he later retracted his confession. Iwik has since been freed.

Response by the government and authorities


The position of the Police Chief has changed 15 times (since 1996), but Udin’s case still remains unsolved.   If  Udin’s case passes the 18-year mark, the attacker(s) can  no longer be prosecuted legally.

When questioned, the Police Headquarters denied accusations that they did not consider Udin’s death  a serious case, saying they were waiting for new witnesses to reopen the case. Police have asked the public to actively provide any relevant information to support the murder investigation.

On 30 July 2012, AJI Indonesia sent a letter to the Police (Special Region of Yogyakarta), inquiring about the development in the investigation of Udin’s murder.  The Yogyakarta police responded that  they were still convinced that Dwi Sumaji aka Iwik was responsible for Udin’s death, and that the Yogyakarta police investigations had gained significant evidence.  The police were trying to send an official letter to the military court to request copies of Semarang Sri Roso Sudarmo examination results. A month later, the Yogyakarta police sent a letter once again to AJI Indonesia  with the same answer  that since they had now released Iwik, the Yogyakarta police have formed a team to investigate the case and to date still have not found strong evidence to charge the culprit.

AJI Yogyakarta Chairman Pito Agustin Rudiana said it was clear that Udin was a victim of targeted attacks. Pito said it was not clear how soon the case could be resolved, based on the responses from the  Yogyakarta Police Chief (Brigadier Tjuk Basuki) in 2011, Pito believes the Police Chief’s comments was merely for show.

AJI Indonesia President Eko Maryadi said Udin’s reflects the extent to which impunity  protects murderers, and not journalists.  Eko reiterated AJI’s demand for the police chief  to give serious and urgent attention to the case.  “AJI also urges the National Human Rights Commission to form a special team to investigate the death of Udin and go straight to the field. Udin’s death is a crime against humanity,” Eko Maryadi said.

Campaign for justice


AJI Indonesia marked World Press Preedom Day in 2012 with a memorial for Udin, where his family members, including his mother Mujilah, his wife Marsiyem and daughter Zulkarnaen Wikanjaya also participated.

Udin’s daughter, Wikan expected her father’s killer to be brought to trial soon. When interviewed, she said: “My family has the support from media colleagues, and our family sincerely hopes the case will be solved.”

AJI Indonesia is  monitoring the progress of the investigation into Udin’s murder and will meet with the Chief of Police in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.  Given the threats of impunity and the tendency that perpetrators of violence are from among state agencies,  AJI Indonesia announced in 2012 that the police was an enemy of Press Freedom in Indonesia. (contributed by AJI Indonesia)

(Photos: AJI Indonesia)


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