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Indonesian Tells of Torture

May 12, 1998

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) _ While bloodshed mounted in anti-governnment protests Tuesday, an Indonesian political activist said he was kidnapped, held for two months and tortured by interrogators.

Desmond Junaedi Mahesa said he could not identify his captors because his head was covered with a bag during questioning. Dissidents say there has been an increasing crackdown on anti-government activists as demands for President Suharto’s ouster have escalated.

Such kidnappings have occurred for years in Indonesia and are often blamed on the military, which has denied involvement.

Mahesa, a lawyer and human rights activist, said that since his release April 3, he has spotted an officer in military uniform watching his home.

Mehasa’s interrogators asked whether he supported Megawati Sukarnoputri, a dissident and daughter of Indonesia’s founding president, Sukarno.

Mehasa told reporters he was repeatedly given electric shocks, kicked, slapped and submerged in a vertical tub of water after he was abducted Feb. 3 in Jakarta.

Mehasa said his hands and legs were cuffed and he was ordered to submerge himself in the tub.

``When I appeared on the surface they told me to dive down, repeatedly,″ he said.

Mahesa said he was placed in the same room as Pius Lustrilanang and Haryanto Taslan, two other activists who were kidnapped recently. The two were released after being seized by unidentified gunmen and questioned about their political activities.

At least six other activists remain missing, said Munir, a lawyer with the Legal Aid Foundation, an independent group that organized Tuesday’s news conference. Munir, like many Indonesians, goes by only one name.

Some of the kidnapped activists have links to students holding near-daily protests, though Mahesa did not.

The students’ discontent has been prompted by Indonesia’s worst economic crisis in decades and Suharto’s authoritanian 32-year rule.

At least six students were killed in protests in Jakarta on Tuesday, in which police fired on and beat demonstrators. Thousands of people at universities across the vast archipelago nation staged protests Tuesday.

Update hourly