October 28, 2014
MONDAY, OCTOBER 27, 2014
By Allan Nairn
General A.M. Hendropriyono, one of Indonesia’s most powerful figures,
has admitted “command responsibility” in the assassination of the
country’s leading rights activist.
In two nighttime interviews at his Jakarta mansion on October 16
Hendropriyono made statements that appear to open him to prosecution
and may create problems for the CIA, the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI),
and for Joko Widodo — Jokowi — Indonesia’s new president.
Hendropriyono is a key Jokowi adviser, is a core leader of the TNI, and
was working with the CIA when his intelligence unit, BIN, killed the
In detailed, on-the-record discussions with me Hendropriyono, perhaps
inadvertently, ended up submitting himself to close questioning.
By the time it was over he had abandoned some of his and TNI’s longest
standing defenses, and had agreed to stand trial for three major
atrocities: the Munir murder, the 1999 terror campaign that devastated
occupied East Timor, and the 1989 Talangsari massacre that earned him
the nickname “the Butcher of Lampung.”
Hendropriyono also ended up agreeing that he was calling for the
release of all internal documents held by the Indonesian and US
governments relating to these cases.
By admitting “command responsibility” and opening to the door to
certain facts, Hendropriyono places legal pressure on two men — the
general, Wiranto and the intelligenge man, As’ad — who have moved to
the center stage of Indonesian politics after being touted for the
The encounter with Hendropriyono was unexpected and at times bizarre.
The first session started with him trying to flatter me, and ended with
me telling him that I hoped Munir’s killers would be jailed for life.
In between, the discussion was, at times, complex. It will be
described in several installments.
I had called Hendropriyono’s cell phone, from New York, on October 14
hoping that I could get a comment from him on his role in killing
During last summer’s Indonesian presidential campaign that resulted in
Jokowi’s election, I had repeatedly called for Hendro to be tried for
crimes against humanity.
But what got far more attention, indeed, at times saturation coverage,
was my running confrontation with Jokowi’s opponent, General Prabowo.
I had published an off-the record interview with Prabowo in which
Prabowo ruminated on fascist dictatorship, talked about how to do
massacres, discussed his extensive work with the Pentagon/ US
Intelligence, and insulted the highly regarded cleric and late
President, Gus Dur.
Prabowo demanded that the army capture me, called me a liar, an
American imperialist, an “enemy of the state,” and pointed out —
correctly — that the TNI had previously captured me seven times and
that Suharto had banned me from the country as “a threat to national
security.” Responding to Prabowo, TNI declared that I had become an
“Operational Target” (TO).
I challenged the army to grab me, challenged Prabowo to bring me to
court, and — on the matter of American Imperialism — challenged
Prabowo to join me in calling for the living US presidents to be put on
trial for atrocities, and for the US mining giant, Freeport McMoRan, to
be expelled from Indonesia. Prabowo backed down on all fronts and
received ridicule, so finally, on the campaign’s last day, he filed
criminal charges against me. His aides later explained that among
other things the charges related to “inciting hatred of the army,” and,
after the election results were in, “causing Prabowo to lose.”
It was against this background that Hendropriyono, one of the pillars
of the Jokowi campaign, indicated that rather than talking on the phone
he wanted to talk in person, in Jakarta. I was heading to Jakarta
anyway, and within hours of entering the country, went to Hendro’s
corner estate in Senayan, Jakarta.
As he entertained a delegation from Malaysian intelligence, and I
waited in a sitting room, a member of Hendro’s family told me that
Jokowi had already offered him three ministries, including MENKOPOLKAM,
the top military/ intelligence post. Relatedly, just that day,
Hendro’s son-in-law, General Andika, had been announced as the new head
of PASAMPRES, Jokowi’s personal security detail. In a cabinet in front
of me was a photo of Hendro with Generals Wiranto and Sutiyoso, and to
the right a photo of Hendro with his old aide, General Susilo, who
later became President. In between was a bust of Napoleon — a Hendro
favorite, a family member explained.
After he ushered me in, Hendro started by saying that he was “honored”
to meet and receive me because I had hurt Prabowo in the campaign. He
suggested that Prabowo was “totalitarian.”
I replied that I attacked all the generals, including him.
Hendropriyono said he knew that, and said that if he was not mistaken I
had attacked him particularly for Talangsari.
I said that was true, but I had attacked him for many things, also
including Munir and 1999 Timor.
Hendro wanted to talk about Talangsari first.
By all accounts — including Hendro’s to me, what had happened there
had been a bloodbath, but he started by saying: “There was no other way
to do it, Allan Nairn.”
He said that as regional commander he controlled both the army and the
National Police BRIMOB, and moved in to confront religious militants
who were armed with “bows and arrows.”
He said “They said I was togut. Togut means extremist who will always
finish the Muslims…”
He said of the rifles vs. arrows showdown, “Of course … we won
because we were stronger.”
Hendro said: “We encircled the huts that they built in the village
together with the villagers. Nobody was out (of the huts) because of
forbidden by their chiefs, by their leaders… I said that ‘we will
attack you and I ask you to go out from the house and surrender.'”
Then at some point, by Hendro’s account — and that of everyone else —
the encircled huts went up in flames.
Survivors and witnesses say Hendro’s men lit the fires, and shot and
tortured unarmed villagers.
Their testimony to the government human rights commission (KOMNASHAM)
and to human rights groups like Munir’s Kontras is detailed.
But, to my astonishment, as we sat there in his Jakarta mansion,
Hendropriyono said that the dead at Talangsari had actually killed
“Suddenly they burned their own huts. That made so many people die,”
(He estimated the death toll at 100, maybe 200, overwhelmingly unarmed,
with many women and children)
I asked incredulously, “So you’re claiming they killed themselves?”…
“Yes, they burned, they burned their huts.”
“In effect you’re saying they committed suicide.”
“Bunuh diri?” (‘Committed suicide?’), I asked in Indonesian.
“Bunuh diri” (‘Committed suicide’), General Hendropriyono replied.
He suggested they might have done this out of fanaticism.
I returned to the point, seeking clarity:
“Jadi, bapak kata bahwa orang itu bunuh diri?” (‘So you’re saying that
those people committed suicide?’)
“Bunuh diri,” — suicide, Hendro replied with finality.
So I said:
“As I’m sure you know, there are many witness testimonies from
survivors of Talangsari given to KOMNASHAM and others that say that
those hundred or 200 were killed by your troops, were killed by you in
a massacre. So why not face this in a trial? Would you agree to be
put on trial and make the argument in a court like you’ve just made to
“Yeah, of course it was not true,” Hendro replied, skirting the
I said: “You could say that in court. You could tell it to the judge.”
But again, Hendro did not want to answer.
Instead, he digressed. He started with an attack on “the Indonesian
human rights organizations,” i.e. Munir’s Kontras, and similar groups.
Hendro said that the human rights groups had paid off witnesses to
implicate him, a charge that was ironic since it had been extensively
reported that Hendro himself had made payments to witnesses, for, he
said at the time, religious purposes.
(When I later mentioned Hendro’s payoff charge to a table full of
Kontras people, they were shocked — and couldn’t stop laughing; “As if
we had the cash!,” one exclaimed.)
But the thing that most bothered Hendro was the fact that the rights
groups, including KOMNASHAM, had agreed to hear testimony from child
survivors of Talangsari, ie. from people who were still minors at the
time of the inferno.
He was evidently upset that these surviving children had been taken
They “were still kids,” he said. They “didn’t know what was going on.”
It was, of course, the case that Talangsari child witnesses were
But this was because Hendro and his men had killed their parents,
according to the rights groups.
And in fact there was testimony from adult survivors as well, and in
any event child testimony was often used in such cases.
In 2013 I was called to testify in a genocide trial in Guatemala. In
the dock was the US-backed ex dictator, General Efrain Rios Montt.
In that case, then-child testimony was used extensively. Rios Montt
was convicted of planned massacres and sentenced to 80 years (the
oligarchy later froze the case; the General remains under house arrest.)
General Hendropriyono didn’t want such testimony here.
But while complaining about the children, General Hendro appeared to
He himself reopened the issue of possibly being compelled to stand
“I’m quite sure that if we go to court, (the) court will go and look at
the witness(es),” he remarked, his point being that the court would
disregard the children and false, paid-off witnesses.
So I jumped in: “So then what you’re saying is that it should go to
court, and you should be put on trial for Talangsari, and you do not
fear that, you would accept that? You would accept being put on trial
Hendro, paused, recoiled and mumbled: “I cannot, mmm, I think I have…”
And then he said, incredibly: ” If anybody instead of me — say like
yourself — if you were me at that time I’m quite sure that you would
do the same thing.”
“No, I would not do the same thing,” I replied. “I would not do the
“What would you do? Tell me, what you would do if you were me,” the
“I would not kill people,” I said, but I wanted to get back to the
“But I want to make sure I understand what you’re saying. I just want
to get a clear understanding of it. Are you saying that you would
accept being put on trial for Talangsari? And then in the court you
would make your arguments and you would bring forth your evidence?”
“Oh yes of course!,” Hendropriyono replied.
This appeared to be the breakthrough.
But I wanted to nail it down, and he hedged.
“So you would accept being put on trial for Talangsari?”
“At that time,” he replied.
He was referring to 1989, the time of the massacre.
“I’m talking about now,” I said. “Because that time has passed. I’m
talking about now.”
At this point, Hendropriyono’s emotional — and legal — defenses
appeared to break.
“Everything that I did,” he said, “everything that they accused me
(of), there is nothing for me to prefer not to accept. I will face.”
The breakthrough had indeed happened. General Hendropriyono had agreed
to face trial.
After decades of the TNI — and himself — erecting defenses, excuses,
for not facing justice, this commanding general — and CIA partner —
had set a precedent.
“Because everything that I did, I’m not animal, I’m human,” he said.
“And you know, I feel, I have children, I have family, and I can feel
how they feel. So to me, I’m responsible for everything that I did and
there is nothing that I will refuse. I understand what you mean. If
there is a court for me for human rights violations, I will accept.”
This Talangsari back-and-forth set the pattern for our discussion of
other atrocities: Hendropriyono reaching — sometimes deeply
implausibly — to assert that the corpses in question weren’t exactly,
really, his fault, but at the same time owning up to the fact that, in
the end, he had been in charge, and that it was appropriate for he, the
senior General, to be placed on trial for murder.
This concession was fundamental, and it opened doors.
It had particularly significant repercussions for our later discussion
Repercussions not just for Hendro, but for BIN, As’ad, and the CIA.
End of Hendropriyono: Part 1.
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Posted by email@example.com (Allan Nairn) at 10/27/2014 04:50:00 AM