Published: Sep 30, 2007

Fuad Muhammad Syafruddin, 33, also known as Udin, worked for 10 years as a journalist on Bernas, a daily newspaper in Yogyakarta, Central Java. In the months before he died, many of his articles had exposed corruption in the Regency - or local government - of Bantul, including in relation to land deals and the election of officials. His reports had focused particularly on the activities of the head - or Regent - of Bantul, Colonel Sri Roso Sudarmo, and had alleged that the Regent had bribed a foundation headed by Indonesian President Suharto, the Dharmais Foundation, to secure his reappointment as the Regent in 1996. Prior to his death, Udin had complained of receiving anonymous threats and of being harassed apparently because of his articles. District officials had apparently contacted him about his writing, and there are reports that a local government meeting in Bantul had recommended that Udin be taken to court for libel. He had also been asked on a number of occasions to come to the local military headquarters for an informal meeting with the commander. The day before he was attacked, there were also reports of unidentified men asking about Udin's whereabouts in the area where he lived. On several occasions, Udin had taken his complaints about harassment to the Yogyakarta branch of the Legal Aid Institute (LBH).

Bleeding

On 13 August 1996, around 10.30 pm, two men came to Udin's house in Bantul and he met with them outside his house. After a short time, Ny Marsiyem, Udin's wife, heard a noise and went outside and found her husband lying on the ground bleeding from his ears. Udin was rushed to hospital with head and internal injuries. He never regained consciousness and died on 16 August 1996. An investigation into Udin's death began, involving the Bantul police, the Yogyakarta Police and the police for Central Java. At an early stage in the investigation, the police ruled out the possibility of a political motive for the killing. Instead they concluded that Udin was involved in an extra-marital affair and that he was killed by the jealous husband. The police initially claimed that Udin had had an affair with a woman named Tri Sumaryani. However this scenario was discounted after Tri Sumaryani told the press that she had been offered financial inducements to confess the affair.

Alcohol

On 21 October the police arrested Dwi Sumaji, 37, a driver for an advertising company, as he was getting on a bus in Sleman, Yogyakarta. Dwi Sumaji ('Iwik') claimed he was driven around the city and forced to drink beer until he felt intoxicated. He was then taken to a beach resort hotel at Parangtritis in Bantul where he was forced to drink more alcohol. He was then offered money, a better job and a prostitute if he confessed to killing Udin. He was taken into police custody and his family were formally informed of his arrest. The following day, the police announced the arrest. They also said that they had found a 35 centimetre iron bar, allegedly used in the murder, and some clothing at the suspect's house. Later the police claimed that the iron-bar and a T-shirt were stained with Udin's blood. Udin's wife, who had answered the door to the two men on the night of the attack, claimed that Dwi Sumaji was not one of the two men, and insisted that the police had not arrested the right man. In the week following his arrest, Dwi Sumaji was able to obtain independent legal counsel through whom he claimed that he did not kill Udin. Dwi Sumaji's wife maintained that he was with her on the night of the murder. Largely because of the level of outrage surrounding the police handling of the murder investigation, Dwi Sumaji was released from police custody on 18 December 1996 but remained a suspect. On four separate occasions, the case was rejected by the prosecutors on the grounds that there was not sufficient evidence to bring Dwi Sumaji to trial for murder. However, the police refiled the case for a fifth time and on this occasion it was accepted.

Sacrificed

The trial of Dwi Sumaji began on 29 July 1997. Speaking in court on 5 August, Dwi Sumaji stated that he had been framed by the police: 'I have been sacrificed for a political business and to protect a political mafia'. Indonesia's National Commission on Human Rights has criticised the police handling of the case and has repeatedly made statements questioning whether the police arrested the right man. Amnesty International is calling on the Indonesian Government to re-open the investigation into the death of Udin and for the investigation to be thorough and impartial.

Extracted from a forthcoming Amnesty International report on Udin and another journalist apparently killed for his investigative work, Naimullah.

Inside Indonesia 52: Oct-Dec 1997