Monday, 25 February 2008

Activists Demand Justice For Illegal Logging Cases in Riau

Activists Demand Justice For Illegal Logging Cases in Riau

Source: The Jakarta Post - February 22, 2008

By Rizal Harahap, Pekanbaru

Members of the Indonesian Forest Protection Committee and the Riau chapter of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) rallied Thursday at Riau Police Headquarters here demanding the immediate prosecution of illegal logging suspects.

Riau Police named six regional heads and dozens of executives from 23 forestry and plantation companies as suspects in illegal logging cases in early 2007, but none of these suspects have been brought to trial.

"We handed over data and facts from the field between January and April 2007 to help the police in their investigations. It has been a year now, but the illegal logging cases have not yet been resolved. We hope Riau Police chief Sutjiptadi keeps his promise to settle the cases," Riau Walhi executive director Joni Setiawan Mundung said during the rally.

He cast doubt on whether Riau Police had investigated the six officials who issued forestry licenses critics say sped up the destruction of the province's forests."We were initially very impressed by the actions taken by Sutjiptadi, who expressed his commitment to combat illegal logging in Riau, especially when we were told the National Police had asked for the President's permission to question the regional heads in Riau on Sept. 27 last year.

"Sixty days have passed but there is has still been no reply from the President. The police should have immediately questioned the officials, who have been identified as suspects.

Surprisingly, the Riau Police have yet to question them, with the police chief instead issuing a statement saying they won't be examined," said Mundung.Riau Police spokesman Adj. Sr. Comr. Zulkifli declined to comment on the charges."Please ask the Riau Police chief about the illegal logging issue," he said.

The police also have not completed 15 case files on illegal logging suspects returned by prosecutors in December last year, preventing the cases from moving forward.Prosecutors are also very careful about handing over cases to the courts, especially after a number of illegal logging suspects were acquitted."We don't want to be blamed by the public if we lose in court due to a lack of evidence," said Riau Prosecutor's Office spokesman Darbin Pasaribu.