Freedom under attack

November 18, 1994

It is with deep concern that we have heard of the interrogation by the police authorities in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, of George Aditjondro, lecturer in sociology at the Satya Wacana Christian University in Salatiga, central Java.

Dr Aditjondro is being charged under article 207 of the Indonesian criminal code for allegedly insulting a high government official as a result of his participation in a conference organised by the Indonesian Islamic University in Yogyakarta last August on the subject of the presidential succession and the democratisation process in Indonesia.

This charge appears to be a pretext by the Indonesian authorities, particularly the army, to punish Dr Aditjondro for his courage in speaking out on sensitive political issues, including East Timor, where Jakarta has been responsible for the deaths of more than 200,000 people -- nearly a third of the original pre-1975 population -- in its 20 years of military occupation.

It represents a grave attack on academic freedom in Indonesia, and follows on similar repressive moves against the Indonesian trade union movement, the press, and non-governmental organisations.

Last year Dr Aditjondro had to cancel a visit to Oxford, where he had been invited to give a lecture in the modern history faculty, because thugs linked to the army had stoned his house in Salatiga and threatened his family. Now he faces a criminal trial with the probability of a prison sentence. As fellow academics we deplore these developments, and call on the Indonesian authorities to drop all charges against Dr Aditjondro forthwith.

PETER CAREY (Trinity) G. A. COHEN (All Souls) BARRY CUNLIFFE (Keble) MICHAEL DUMMETT (New College) MICHAEL GILSENAN (Magdalen) RICHARD GOMBRICH (Balliol) R. W. JOHNSON (Magdalen) RODNEY NEEDHAM (All Souls) PETER PULZER (All Souls) ANTHONY SMITH (president, Magdalen) DEREK WOOD, QC (principal, St Hugh's) Oxford.

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