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Anti-terror unit deals out own terror JAKARTA - Australia has sent an official to the Indonesian province of Maluku to investigate claims that Indonesia's elite counter-terrorism unit, Detachment 88, which Australia and the US train and fund, brutalised a group of separatists last month, repeatedly beating and abusing them in detention.

The alleged serious mistreatment of political activists in the Indonesian province comes as it emerged that, in May 2008, the US secretly banned members of Detachment 88 in Maluku from receiving assistance. The Australian government is said to be ''aware and concerned'' about the activities of the Detachment 88 officers, sending an official to Ambon, Maluku's capital, to investigate two weeks ago.

But human rights activists argue the response from the donor nations is inadequate because the abuses of peaceful protesters, which were first documented in late 2007, continue. About 12 activists were arrested in early August and taken to the Detachment 88 office in Tantui, a suburb of Ambon, where they say they were subject to mistreatment both brutal and bizarre, an investigation by The Age has revealed.

The arrests occurred after police and intelligence officers foiled a plot to float dozens of banned flags and other political material attached on helium-filled balloons across Ambon when Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and foreign guests were in town for the Sail Banda regatta. Seven of the prisoners smuggled out recorded statements, while another activist was interviewed while recuperating from a fractured hip. He was handcuffed to his bed in hospital.

All said they were blindfolded and then hit around the head and body by the police officers during interrogation, sometimes with wooden sticks and bars or while forced to hold painful stress positions. Police allegedly jumped on the prisoners, burned them with cigarettes, pierced them with nails, and brought them to the point of suffocation with plastic bags placed over their heads.

One said he was forced to eat raw chillies, while two said they were ordered to hug and kiss each other and beaten when they refused. ''We were all tortured beyond limit and, during the torture, if we mentioned the name of the Lord Jesus, we would be punched and slapped,'' said Yusuf Sahetapy, one of the prisoners.

A spokesman for Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade declined to confirm or deny whether Australia had, or would, institute a ban on Detachment 88 officers like the US, saying the department would not comment on individual members of the unit. ''The Australian government is aware of, and concerned by, the allegations of brutality towards political prisoners,'' the spokesman said. ''We will continue to monitor the situation and make representations as necessary.''

Detachment 88's commander, Tito Karnavian, said the unit in Maluku was not under his control, and referred inquiries to local police. The director of criminal investigations in Maluku, Jhonny Siahaan, said ''no violent act was ever used during the investigation. All the people arrested are doing fine. None with broken bones, all healthy, none hospitalised. It is our department doing it, not Detachment 88.''


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Related blog entries (category 'Violence') Tags: Densus 88, antiterror, group, violence


Posted in Violence @ 13 September 2010 11:58 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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