Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Attorney General's Office prepares to appeal logging boss' acquittal

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The Jakarta Post Nov. 7.

Attorney General's Office prepares to appeal logging boss' acquittal

Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta, Medan

The Attorney General's Office is gearing up to file an appeal with the Supreme Court to reverse Monday's ruling by the Medan District Court that saw Adelin Lis freed from corruption and forest destruction charges.

The appeal against the alleged illegal logging boss' release must be submitted within 14 days of the initial court ruling.

"We're still waiting for a copy of the court's ruling before preparing and completing the supporting documents for the appeal," Office spokesman Thomson Siagian told reporters Tuesday.

"The documents will include a study of the court's decision and the prosecutors' legal basis for proving the charges are appropriate," he said.

Prosecutors had asked the Medan court to sentence Adelin, the finance director of PT Keang Nam Development Indonesia, to 10 years in prison and a Rp 1 billion (US$110,000) fine for corruption and forest destruction in Mandailing Natal regency, North Sumatra.

Thomson said although Adelin had been freed of all charges by the Medan Court, the Attorney General's Office would still keep an eye on his movements.

"The ban for Adelin to leave the country will remain in effect until there's an order to lift it and a final ruling is achieved," he said.

"In addition, the Attorney General's Office, in cooperation with related institutions, will watch his every move," Thomson added.

Adelin's lawyer, Sakti Hasibuan, said his client would not leave the country.
Meanwhile, the National Police expressed its support for the prosecutors' decision to file an appeal with the Supreme Court.

"The police will support the appeal. We hope the illegal logger who has caused forest destruction and initially faced 10 years in prison will not be acquitted on appeal," police spokesman Insp. Gen. Sisno Adiwinoto said as quoted by

He said the controversial ruling was not based on actual conditions, but was more about the judges' opinions.

"In order to support the appeal, the Office needs to do an in-depth field report on forest destruction in Mandailing Natal regency," Sisno said.

North Sumatra Police said although the Mandailing Natal regency illegal logger had been acquitted, the police were planning to arrest him again on money laundering charges.

Police officers had raided Adelin's house in search of evidence for the money laundering case.
The police said Adelin was suspected of laundering funds from illegal logging activities.

A police source said the arrest should have been conducted when Adelin was released from jail as the required documents were already complete. But Adelin's lawyer had asked the police to allow him to be free for a few days after spending two years in prison.

"We will arrest him for money laundering soon," said National Police chief detective, Comr. Gen. Bambang Hendarso Danuri as quoted by

Adelin's lawyer, Sakti Hasibuan, said, however, there was no legal basis for the police to arrest him again.

"The court has cleared him of his corruption and illegal logging charges. So it's impossible to arrest him for that again," Sakti told The Jakarta Post. (ndr)

Illegal logging justice

Adelin Lis' acquittal of illegal logging charges in North Sumatra seemed to surprise no one but Adelin himself, who said after the verdict was announced: "It turns out there is still justice in the country."

Why was no one really surprised by Adelin's acquittal? If you look at those illegal logging cases that have made it to the courts -- most cases are dropped long before they get that far -- you would know most of the suspects in the cases walked free.

Earlier this year in North Sumatra, two illegal logging suspects, Lingga Tanuwidjaja and Washington Pane, from two different companies under the Mujur Timber Group led by Adelin, were also acquitted of illegal logging charges by district courts.

Adelin believes justice has been upheld, but many people living in North Sumatra who have seen their forests disappear would see it differently. For them, the justice system has failed to protect their forests.

It is particularly sad to learn that Forestry Minister MS Kaban supported Adelin Lis during the trial by submitting a letter to the police - later being used by Adelin's defense team -- stating that Adelin's activities did not amount to a crime but were an administrative error.

It was completely unethical on the part of Kaban to submit this letter and could be considered obstruction of justice.

We do not understand why the forestry minister has not only failed to act to save our forests, but is actively encouraging illegal logging by classifying the felling of trees outside concession areas as an administrative error.

But the forestry minister and officials are just one link in a long chain of hidden support for illegal logging. It is no secret that illegal logging operations could not thrive as they do without the help of forestry officials, regional administrations and law enforcement bodies.
This is not only happening in North Sumatra, where illegal logging is rampant and the perpetrators easily evade justice.

In West Sumatra, seven illegal logging cases were dismissed in the past year. In Papua, suspects in 14 illegal logging cases were acquitted. A number of illegal logging suspects were also acquitted in Aceh and West Kalimantan.

In most cases, these suspects were freed by the courts despite what activists and even officials referred to as "compelling evidence" that they were involved in illegal logging.

This in turns leads to finger-pointing at our courts and allegations that judges have been bribed. Court officials defend themselves by saying the prosecutors failed to build strong cases against the suspects.

Along with the courts and prosecutors, the police and the Forestry Ministry are also taking part in this dangerous blame game.

The police and the Forestry Ministry are at odds over the handling of illegal logging cases in Riau, where the police are zealous about netting suspected illegal loggers but forestry officials defend logging activities there as legal.

When law enforcers are at odds with each other, how can we expect them to uphold justice and protect our remaining forests?

We all know illegal logging is responsible for much of the deforestation in the country. At the present rate of deforestation, thought to be the world's fastest with an area the size of Switzerland being lost every year, Indonesia could lose its remaining forests within 15 years.
Already, according to the Forestry Ministry, 37.6 million hectares of forests, including mangrove forests, are in critical condition. Illegal logging must stop now.

We have heard many times from the police, the prosecutors and the forestry minister that they want harsh penalties for illegal loggers, but reality tells a different story. Adelin's acquittal is a good example.

We call on all concerned parties, especially the President and the Supreme Court, to get our law enforcers together in the fight against illegal logging.

Credibility in the legal process is needed to fight illegal logging, not money from developed countries as we are trying to secure at the upcoming climate change summit in Bali.

We cannot continue to plunder our forests, while at the same time begging for money to protect these same forests. That would just bring shame to all of us.