Article Reveals U.S. Knowledge of Activist Abductions in Indonesia Intelligence Officials Worked Closely with Military Units Responsible

For Immediate Release
Contact: Lynn Fredriksson; (202)544-6911
John M. Miller, (718)596-7668
East Timor Action Network

U.S. intelligence officials based in Indonesia knew about the abductions of political activists as they occurred reports Allan Nairn in an article to be published in the forthcoming Nation magazine. The article, "Our Men in Jakarta" in the June 15/22, 1998 issue, reveals that U.S. intelligence knew for months about the disappearances as they were taking place. Further Nairn reports "the activists' situation was thoroughly known to Colonel McFetridge of the D.I.A. and to the embassy C.I.A. station. Yet it was not until mid-April, after a crisis caused by public protest, that the State Department went to Prabowo and pushed for the release of some activists."

The U.S. has long been a supporter of Lt. General Prabowo, ex-President Suharto's son-in-law and until recently commander of KOPASSUS, one of the units responsible for the activists' disappearances. The training of KOPASSUS and other Indonesian army units through the JCET (Joint Combined Exchange Training program has caused a firestorm of criticism by members of Congress and human rights activists. In January, Defense Secretary William Cohen praised KOPASSUS for its "very impressive... discipline."

The U.S. government last week claimed through the Washington Post that it had discovered that Prabowo was involved in the disappearances, but Nairn says they knew all along: "KOPASSUS Group 4, which U.S. officials singled out for blame in the Post– were, from the start of the abductions, in close and friendly liaison with U.S. intelligence," he writes.

In the article, Nairn interviews Col. Chairawan, the Group 4 commander, who says that he directly deals with Col. McFetridge of the D.I.A.

General Wiranto, commander-in-chief of ABRI (the Indonesian Armed Forces) and Defense minister under both Presidents Suharto and Habibie, recently pushed his rival Prabowo aside.

Nairn reports – contrary to claims that Prabowo acted alone -- that all the units involved in the disappearances were under Wiranto's control and that one of them, the BIA, is under his daily supervision has also been involved in the arrest and torture of activists. (In last week's Nation ["Indonesia's Disappeared," May 30] Nairn revealed and detailed the roles of BIA and Group 4 in the Disappearances.)

During the growing protests against Suharto, Wiranto personally issued a number of threats against demonstrators and his spokesman mocked the 'disappeared' and said that ABRI would not "tolerate any campaigns for drastic political reform." Wiranto has also received extensive U.S. backing and praise. His units have been JCET trained and the U.S. Pacific Commander has hailed him as "a man of integrity and a true Indonesian patriot."

Although some formally arrested political prisoners along with some of the "disappeared" activists have been released due to activist pressure, at least 5 abducted Indonesians and many dozens of "disappeared" in East Timor remain missing.

Nairn, a prize-winning investigative journalist and activist with the East Timor Action Network (ETAN) and Justice for All, recently reported in The Nation that the Pentagon has been training Indonesian armed forces without the knowledge of Congress. The report caused an outcry in Congress and on May 8, 1998, the Pentagon suspended its Joint Combined Exchange and Training (JCET) program. Following the report, Nairn was detained, interrogated and deported from Indonesia as "a threat to national security."

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