Environmental protester arrested for allegedly displaying communist symbols, fellow activists suggest he was set up

Activists distraught at the news that  Heri Budiawan, aka Budi Pego had been arrested by police. Photo: WALHI Jawa Timur / Facebook
Activists distraught at the news that Heri Budiawan, aka Budi Pego had been arrested by police. Photo: WALHI Jawa Timur / Facebook

Yesterday, a 37-year-old environmental activist named Heri Budiawan was arrested for his actions during an April protest he coordinated against the Tumpang Pitu gold mine in Banyuwangi, East Java. His alleged crime was that one of the protest banners used at the demo had featured the hammer and sickle communist symbol, which may not be legally displayed in Indonesia.

However, there is evidence to suggest that Heri, better known as Budi Pego, may have been set up. That’s according to Muhammad Afandi, head of the advocacy and campaigning division of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi).


Afandi said that local activists had made 11 banners for the protest on April 4. He noted that police were actually present while the banners were being made.

“If there had been a drawing similar to the hammer and sickle, the police could have stopped them and arrest the people immediately,” he said as quoted by Kompas.

His fellow protesters said the banners with images resembling the hammer and sickle logo suddenly appeared without any warning during the middle of the rally.

The activists said they only knew about the existence of the image resembling the hammer and sickle hammer logo on the banners after police showed them the photos. They were also adamant that it had not been one of the 11 banners they had made previously.

He also noted that police never presented any physical evidence that the banner bearing the hammer and sickle had been made by Heri or any of the other activists. The only evidence they have is photos of it being held up at the rally.

In addition to Heri, there are three other activists who have been designated as suspects, namely Cipto Andreas (19), Trimanto (20) and Dwi Ratna Sari (23).

Afandi said that at least five other “criminalization” attempts have been made to arrest people engaged in peaceful protest against the Tumpang Pitu gold mine.

“This figure shows the gravity of situation faced by citizens who reject the gold mining in Tumpang Pitu,” Afandi said.

The Walhi officer noted that Article 66 of Law 32/2009 on Environmental Protection and Management says that those who struggle for the right to a good and healthy environment cannot be prosecuted criminally or civilly sued.


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