The arrests of FSB Nikeuba labour activists Muhammad Yusri and Syahyunan, resp. Chairperson and Secretary of the Batubara Branch of FSB Nikeuba in North Sumatra, Indonesia was a crucial point in the demonstration against the Omnibus Law on Job Creation* on October 13th, 2020. Their arrests have become the nadir of democracy in Indonesia.
The demonstrations in Batubara to reject the Omnibus Law were a joint action by students, NGOs, youth organizations and labour unions. The actions, which started in an orderly fashion, became chaotic as a result of stones being thrown at the police by a provocateur. The Police Chief of Batubara was injured in the face when he was hit by a stone.
This resulted in the arrest of Muhammad Yusri, as the person in charge of the FSB Nikeuba Batubara action, at Syahyunan’s house. This happened on the 14th of October 2020.
Previously, the Secretary of the FSB Nikeuba Batubara, Syahyunan, was arrested by the Batubara police first after the action. However, the police released Syahyunan and instead arrested Muhammad Yusri, who was then considered in charge of the action.
From information received, the two FSB Nikeuba leaders of the Batubara District did not even commit violence during the demonstration. In fact, Yusri had ordered his labour union colleagues to resign from demonstrating.
Shortly before the trial of Yusri, whereby witnesses were to be heard, Syahyunan, who should have been presented as a witness relieving Yusri, was actually arrested by the police himself.
The FSB Nikeuba Chairperson, Carlos Rajagukguk responded strongly to the arrest of Yusri in October of the last year as well as to the arrest of Syahyunan on the 9th of February this year.
“Unfortunately, the witness to relieve Yusri was arrested by the police on himself!” Carlos said. It is suspected that the arrest of Syahyunan is an attempt to prevent Yusri from having a witnesses to defend his case. “This is our guess,” said Carlos.
Carlos said that Syahyunan was a participant in the demonstration that was first secured by the police for questioning. Syahyunan was then released by the police but was subject to compulsory reporting. Syahyunan was arrested again just before he could become a witness for Yusri. “So, today we are looking for witnesses for Yusri’s case,” said Carlos. Finding these witnesses is very difficult.
Charged on 3 accounts
Carlos revealed that Syahyunan was charged 3 criminal accounts, namely on charges of opposing officers on duty and threatening violence (Articles 212, 214 and 216).
“But there were so many participants at that time. Hundreds!” said Carlos. “Their arrests are unfair!”
According to him, there were hundreds of witnesses at the demonstration rejecting the Omnibus Law, but rarely do they have the courage to testify in court. To this day Carlos admits that no witnesses presented themselves.”
Free Muhammad Yusri and Syahyunan
From the start there are suspicions that there are certain parties who do not like the presence of the FSB NIKEUBA in Batubara. “The Batubara Branch of FSB NIKEUBA has always been critical to defend workers. There are many labour rights which are neglected in the district. So, perhaps there is a group of people who do not like this and thus deliberately disturb things as to silence Yusri, “Carlos stated.
“Yusri himself conveyed to me that he is proud to fight for labour rights, and that he feels supported by the FSB Nikeuba” he explained.
Carlos hopes that Yusri will be given a fair trial. The more so because, he suspects that behind this legal case there are political interests.
*the Omnibus Law is a controversial Law on Job Creation which was passed on 5 October 2020