02/17/2014, 00.00
INDONESIA
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Semarang: ten former Communist Party political prisoners arrested

by Mathias Hariyadi
Police "picked up" several ex members of the banned PKI for interrogation. The raid was carried out because of an (alleged) attempt to "re-establish" the Indonesian Communist Party. The operation began after members of Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) kept the people detained under surveillance and later filed a complaint against them. Local sources say the meeting was nothing more than a "family reunion" with no political aims.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Police and intelligence services in Semarang, capital of Central Java province, took into custody overnight at least ten former political prisoners from the disbanded Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI). After taking them to a safe house, they subjected them to an "interrogation".

An attempt to reconstitute the Communist Party was behind the police decision to arrest the group. However, a police source in Semarang said that "at present, we cannot confirm" the allegations.

The police operation followed a complaint by members of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), which placed under "surveillance" the house where the former Communists met. They later submitted a detailed report to police.

According to some witnesses, the meeting was just a "family reunion" between old political prisoners and there was no plan to re-establish the party or engage in political action.

In Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, any connection with Communism or past membership in the disbanded PKI is still a matter of controversy even after many decades.

The attempted coup on 30 September 1965 by subversive groups within the secret services, connected to the Communist Party of Indonesia, with the aim of deposing President Sukarno, has left an indelible mark on the nation's recent history.

After he came to power, General Suharto ruled the country with an iron fist between 1967 and 1998. During this period, Communist Party members and supporters were hunted down, jailed and persecuted with violence and brutality.

Many members were sent into exile to the prison on Buru Island in Maluku province, without a fair trial or the right to legal defence in court.

Under the Suharto regime, at least two million people connected with or suspected of sympathising for the local communist movement were killed or disappeared without a trace.

Even today, an attitude of distrust, hostility and even persecution of former party members and political prisoners persists, particularly in the police and the military.

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