Indian Catholic News

Indonesian activists fear for Catholic academic's safety

Lecturer Robertus Robet in hot water over song and speech criticizing Indonesian military.

Catholic activist Robertus Robet, delivers a speech during a “silent protest” by rights abuse victims on Feb. 28 in Jakarta. Robet has been accused of insulting the Indonesian military. (YouTube screengrab)

Activists and human rights abuse victims have called on the Indonesian government to allow the safe return of a Catholic lecturer and his family who fled to Australia after being arrested and charged for criticizing the military.

The call was made May 16 during what has become known as a “Thursday action” — a weekly silent protest calling on the government to address rights concerns that has been held outside the presidential palace for more than 10 years.

Robertus Robet, a lawyer, Jakarta State University lecturer, and rights activist, was accused of insulting the country’s powerful military during one such weekly protest on Feb. 28 and an online post.

At the protest, Robet criticized plans to place serving military officials in state agencies.

He was detained in early March but was later released after being charged with a computer crime law which could land him 18 months in prison.

At the time Robet said he was criticizing the military of the past, not the present.

According to Australia’s ABC News, the day after he was released, Robet and his family flew to Melbourne after he received threats.

The report also said he intended to return to Indonesia after the official results of the country’s presidential election are announced on May 22.

Unofficial counts have President Joko Widodo defeating his opponent Prabowo Subianto.

Indonesian activists have concerns about Robet’s safety if he returns.

"The Indonesian government and police must protect him, so that he can return to the country,” activist Katharina Sumarsih told at the May 16 protest.

“He did nothing wrong, he is innocent,” she said.

Sumarsih — whose son was shot dead during an anti-Suharto protest — said she feared that what has happened to Robet could happen to others who criticize the military.

Robet has also been accused of insulting the military in a song posted online and for which he has been charged and faces up to eight months in jail.

Usman Hamid, executive director of Amnesty International Indonesia, said the charge over the song was laid against Robet to intimidate and silence activists.

"He is an academic who only expressed his view on a plan to place military men in governmental institutions," news portal quoted him as saying.

Source: UCAN

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