Press Release February 20, 2003
Pastor Damanik Refuses to Attend Hearing of His Case
Rev. Rinaldy Damanik refused to attend the third hearing of his case in Palu, Central Sulawesi on February 18 after charges were changed from the possession of weapons to provoking violence. Damanik told prosecutors: “I’m very tired of being accused as a provocateur. Those accusations were only rumors, but now they have been announced formally by the Minister [of Law and Human Rights].” Damanik further stated that he felt attending the hearing legitimized the new charges against him. Therefore, he decided to boycott the court session. Damanik said: “I want law enforcement to be implemented because I respect the judges and the prosecutors.” The session opened as scheduled but the hearing was postponed until February 24.
Damanik was originally arrested on September 9, 2002 after going to Jakarta to clarify the facts about accusations of illegal weapons possession made against him in Central Sulawesi. Since that time his imprisonment has been extended several times despite a lack of evidence. The trial against Damanik began in Palu on February 3. He was originally charged under Emergency Law #12/1951 for possessing “dozens of rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.” After the trial began, the Minister of Law and Human Rights presented a letter accusing Damanik of being a provocateur. Damanik has since sued the Minister and registered a complaint with the High Court on State Affairs (PTUN) in Jakarta.
Rev. Damanik, a vocal spokesman for reconciliation between the Christian and Muslim communities of Central Sulawesi, is known as a critic of the police and government authorities for their lack of involvement in resolving and bringing an end to violence in the Poso area. According to the Jakarta Post, the conflict between Muslims and Christians in Poso has claimed the lives of some 2,000 people over three years of violence. Rev. Damanik was a signer of the Malino Peace Agreement.
Connie Snyder, Vice President of the human rights group International Christian Concern stated: “The whole case against Damanik is completely fabricated. Rev. Damanik is being used as a scapegoat to appease the Muslim community. Since there was no evidence of weapons possession, the charges had to be changed to provoking violence in order to justify Damanik’s continued imprisonment. The Minister of Law and Human Rights has upheld neither the law nor human rights by his unsubstantiated charges against Rev. Damanik. Given the blatant irregularities in this case, Damanik should be released immediately.”
International Christian Concern is a Washington, DC-based human rights and aid organization that assists Christians worldwide who suffer oppression and persecution. More information is available on the ICC web site at www.www.persecution.org or by calling the ICC office at 1-301-989-1708.