An Indonesian ex-Cabinet minister was sentenced to 19 years in prison today for subversion in terrorist bombings last October in Jakarta's Chinatown. The sentencing climaxed four months of highly publicized trials against Moslem militants.
Mohammed Sanusi, 64, shuddered in apparent surprise when he heard the verdict in the crowded court. His was the longest sentence yet in the trials of eight men accused in the bombings of two banks and a grocery store Oct. 4.
A rash of violent incidents has raised concerns in the administration of President Suharto about the growth of antigovernment sentiment among Moslem fundamentalists. A month before the bombings, riots broke out in the capital's economically depressed port district when Moslem rioters clashed with security forces. At least 30 people were killed and scores injured when troops fired on a crowd of 1,500.
Diplomats and Indonesian sources trace the unrest among the fundamentalist minority in this predominantly Moslem country of 160 million to Suharto's zealous promotion of his pancasila, or five points, philosophy. A legislative proposal that would require all social and religious organizations to adopt pancasila as their sole ideological principle is expected to be voted into law later this month.
Many Moslem leaders in this most populous of Moslem nations oppose the bill, saying pancasila might itself become a religion or at least make Islam subordinate to the state ideology -- thus reducing Moslem power and influence.
The five points of pancasila involve belief in God, humanitarianism, national unity, democracy based on consensus and social justice. Suharto has said they are vital to unify this diverse archipelago.
According to the court, the conspirators in the bombings sought to exploit public emotions following the bloody port riots with a campaign of terror in the capital.
Sanusi's lawyers appealed the verdict. "This is a very, very long sentence for an old man," said defense lawyer Achmad Santose. "We were very surprised at how heavy this sentence is." Under Indonesian law, Sanusi's sentence can only be reduced by presidential pardon.
The prosecution had demanded the death penalty. But the court chose the lesser jail sentence because he was a former minister of small industries in the governments of both President Suharto and the late president Sukarno, and because he was "a freedom fighter in the revolution and a good citizen."
Sanusi was found guilty of providing detonators for the bombs and giving $500 to seven Islamic militants who planned and executed the bombings. Two persons were killed and 16 injured.
The bombs blasted two offices of Bank Central Asia, owned by Liem Sioe Liong, an ethnic Chinese who is reputedly the richest man in Indonesia. The third bomb destroyed a Chinese-owned grocery store.
The anger that led to the port blood bath grew out of Moslem resentment of the purportedly close ties between President Suharto's family and rich Chinese businessmen, particularly Liem, western diplomats here have said.
In earlier trials, five of Sanusi's codefendants were given sentences ranging from 10 to 17 years for subversion. In those verdicts, the court said the defendants had admitted bombing Chinese-owned businesses to dramatize their belief that a small minority of Chinese is dominating the economy.
Sanusi's motivation, according to the court, was to bring down the government of Suharto by spreading terror. The court also found him guilty of financing the publication of a "subversive pamphlet" that challenged the government's version of what happened in the harbor riots.
Sanusi, who in earlier court sessions denied the charges as "slander," was a member of a banned group that has pressed for changes it describes as democratic.
Several ex-members of the group, who are not allowed to take part in any political activities, showed up to hear the verdict on Sanusi. But one of the most prominent members was unable to attend because he is in protective custody in a Jakarta prison. H.R. Dharsono, a former secretary general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and a former commander of the Army's elite Siliwangi Division, is now widely expected to be brought to trial on subversion charges in connection with the bombings.
Bomb blasts and major fires have continued. In the latest incident, on March 16, a bomb exploded on a bus, killing seven and injuring 20. Military authorities arrested a suspect who allegedly declared that his intended bombing target was Hindu temples in Bali.
The military commander in East Java, Maj. Gen. Soeharso, subsequently said the bus blast, in that district, was linked to the January bombings of the Borobudur Buddhist temple in Central Java, the Christmas bombings of a Catholic seminary in East Java, and the Chinatown bank bombings here.
Soeharso said the suspect admitted to belonging to a group of Shiite Moslem followers of Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Most Indonesians are Sunni Moslems.