Indonesian workers, legal aid lawyers fight ‘disobedience’ charges

Police in blue shirts -- one apparently with a TV monogram -- break up the worker demonstration for raising the minimum wage in Jakarta last October. Image: Akamaihd

By Indra Budiari and Safrin La Batu in Jakarta

When Dian Septi Trisnati decided to take part in a labor protest demanding a review of the calculation used to set the minimum wage, she never expected she would end up a victim of police brutality — and a criminal suspect.

Dian, a member of the Cross-Factories Workers Federation, said the protest that took place in front of the State Palace in Central Jakarta on October 30 had been held, as with similar rallies, because workers had been left with little choice.

“It ended violently,” she told The Jakarta Post. “A lot of workers were beaten by the cops. They treated us like dangerous criminals, even though none of us brought any weapons.”

The demonstration in question involved thousands of workers from across Greater Jakarta who staged a rally demanding the revocation of the then newly issued Government Regulation (PP) No. 78/2015, which stipulated that the calculation of minimum wage increases takes into account the current fiscal year’s inflation and gross domestic product (GDP) growth rates.

The rally ended with a clash between protesters and the police. The latter claimed the demonstrators had refused to disperse at the agreed time of 6 pm, but organisers said it merely took some to disperse, given that the protesters numbered in the thousands.

The police arrested 23 workers and two lawyers from the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Jakarta) accompanying the demonstration. All were subsequently charged with articles 216 and 218 of the Criminal Code on disobeying an official order, with a maximum sentence of four and a half months in jail.

‘Kicked me in head’
“I was taken to a police truck, where a police officer kicked me in the head. They finally released us from the Jakarta police headquarters 24 hours later, but we went home as suspects,” Dian said at the Indonesian Ombudsman office.

Along with lawyers from LBH Jakarta, Dian and her fellow suspects filed a report to the Ombudsman, claiming that the police had committed “maladministration” in their duties by beating them and charging them with crimes.

They demanded the institution investigate the case and decide if any violation had been committed by the police. Their case dossiers are to be submitted to state prosecutors by the end of the week.

“The police officers responsible, as well as assaulting citizens who were merely fighting for their rights, were furthermore not wearing uniforms,” LBH Jakarta lawyer Maruli Rajagukguk said.

The officers in question had been wearing blue shirts rather than uniforms, he said, making it impossible for workers and LBH Jakarta lawyers to identify the name and rank of the officers who beat them.

He added that while the workers were staging a protest to fight for the annual minimum wage calculation, the legal aid activists had not taken part in the protest.

“They were there just to make sure that the workers’ rights were not violated in the protest, but the police showed no mercy,” Maruli continued.

Contacted separately, Jakarta police spokesperson Sr. Comr. Mohammad Iqbal insisted that all measures during the incident had been conducted based on standard operation procedure, adding that prosecutors had, moreover, accepted the dossiers.

The suspects, he insisted, had the legal right to challenge their suspect status.

“That’s what pretrial motions are for. They have the right to file for a pretrial petition.”

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