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Indonesian prosecutors seek jail for soldiers

July 31, 2013

YOGYAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian prosecutors sought prison terms of up to 12 years Wednesday for a dozen elite soldiers accused of storming a prison on the main island of Java and executing four detainees to avenge the murder of a fellow soldier.

The 12 troops are accused of wearing masks as they allegedly broke into Yogyakarta’s Cebongan prison on March 23, seeking four men being held on charges of killing another member of their special forces army unit, known as Kopassus.

They allegedly forced several guards to open the jail cell and then shot the inmates with automatic weapons and destroyed surveillance cameras. The case has sparked a national outcry among Indonesians demanding that the military not be allowed to operate with impunity.

In a rare acknowledgment of military abuses, the government issued a statement after the attack promising justice would be served.

The 12 are being tried in four groups at a military court in Yogyakarta province.

Lead prosecutor Lt. Col. Budiharto told the court Wednesday that Second Sgt. Ucok Tigor Simbolon, who allegedly shot all four detainees, should receive a 12-year sentence. He said two other soldiers should get eight and 10 years for helping with the executions.

Budiharto, who like many Indonesians uses a single name, said the attack was motivated by a strong feeling of unity and dignity in the corps after learning that a fellow soldier had been brutally murdered.

“Their actions have defamed Indonesia’s military forces,” he said. “They have committed a premeditated murder beyond the orders of their superiors.”

In the separate trials, prosecutors asked that nine other soldiers be sentenced to between eight months and two years.

Kopassus troops have been implicated in a range of crimes and human rights violations over the years and officials say they have worked to address the problem. The high-profile case is seen as a test of how far the military has come since Washington resumed some assistance to Kopassus three years ago after a 12-year break over human rights concerns.

Analysts said violations by the military are no longer widespread but there is limited accountability for abuses that do take place.

The 12 soldiers and their lawyers will respond to the prosecution’s sentencing demand in two weeks.

Update hourly