Subject: Prabowo Denied US Visa Under Torture Agreement

Straits Times [Singapore] Sunday, December 31, 2000

Prabowo denied US visa under torture agreement

US says there is reason to believe the retired general, a son-in-law of Suharto, was involved in torture and organising of rapes in the 1998 riots


JAKARTA - A son-in-law of former President Suharto, retired Lt-General Prabowo Subianto, has made legal history in the United States as the first person to be denied entry under the provisions of the United Nations Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

A senior US official told The Sunday Times that a combination of foreign policy considerations, a reasonable belief that he was involved in the riots which devastated Jakarta in 1998 and coincidental timing worked against the former special forces general once lionised by his American counterparts as a future national leader.

'He was denied a visa in the middle of the year under the formal category of foreign policy,' the official said. 'The real reason is he is the first case of someone denied a visa subsequent to the United States ratifying the Torture Convention.'

Witnesses, he added, had testified to his involvement in the torture and organising of rapes during the May riots, both crimes covered under the convention.

Washington decided to make his case a precedent after 'considerable deliberations'.

Such a ban would tend to be permanent.

But Lt-Gen Prabowo, who has a son studying in Boston, was never given a reason why his visa application was turned down. Nor did Washington have any obligations to share the witness testimonies with ongoing probes in Jakarta into the riots.

The probes, first conducted by a human rights panel led by Attorney-General Marzuki Darusman, has never been able to find conclusive proof against Lt-Gen Prabowo, generally suspected by many to be the mastermind.

Victims and rape investigators, on the other hand, were subject to intimidation when they tried to testify.

The general, who was forced to retire after a military honour court here found him guilty of exceeding orders in the kidnapping of anti-Suharto activists in 1998, later went into voluntary exile in Jordan before returning to Jakarta in May.

With a public still fascinated by him, he has given several interviews in efforts to clear his name.

Running into The Sunday Times last week when he made a lightning visit to the home of his academy classmate from the Class of 1974, Chief Security Minister Susilo Bambang Yuhdoyuno, he said he had never found out why he had been banned from the US.

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