Retired commander who once served as Prabowo’s assistant named treason suspect for second time

Indonesian protesters take part in a demonstration before being dispersed by the police  outside the Elections Oversight Body (Bawaslu) in Jakarta on May 22, 2019. (Photo: Bay Ismoyo / AFP)
Indonesian protesters take part in a demonstration before being dispersed by the police outside the Elections Oversight Body (Bawaslu) in Jakarta on May 22, 2019. (Photo: Bay Ismoyo / AFP)

Authorities are still dealing with the aftermath of last week’s post-election riots in Jakarta and investigating those who were responsible for causing the violence. After yesterday’s announcement that they had arrested six individuals who were allegedly involved in a plot to use the riots as cover to assassinate four “state officials”, police also confirmed that they had named former special forces commander Kivlan Zen as a suspect for treason.

“Yes, he’s already been named a suspect,” said National Police spokesperson Dedi Prasetyo at National Police Headquarters yesterday as quoted by Detik.

Kivlan — who once served as two-time losing presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto’s adjutant in Kostrad (The Army Strategic Command) before retiring as the corps chief of staff — was first reported to the National Police for treason and spreading fake news in early May. He was subsequently blocked from leaving the country and interrogated by police for 14 hours on May 13.

Police said Kivlan’s treason case was related to that of Eggi Sudjana, a Prabowo ally closely aligned with the 212 Islamist movement and National Mandate Party (PAN) politician. Eggi was arrested by police on May 14.

Kivlan previously told the media that he had been interrogated about Eggi’s calls for “people power” protests that would topple President Joko Widodo’s administration.

Police did not offer many details regarding the evidence used to charge Kivlan, but his lawyer said that he felt his client was being vilified and he had never had any intention to spur demonstrations with the intent of overthrowing the government.

This isn’t the first time Kivlan has been arrested for treason. In 2016, shortly before the infamous 212 rally against then-governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama on December 2, he was one of eight people arrested for allegedly trying to plot a coup attempt against the government, using the unrest of the 212 rally as cover (sound familiar?). However, the charges were later dropped.

Kivlan is a far-right figure known for his vehement anti-Communist paranoia, which includes supporting Islamist attacks on the survivors of Indonesia’s 1965 mass killings.

Numerous supporters of Prabowo have been reported and arrested on charges of spreading fake news in regard to the election as well as for their roles in engineering the protests and subsequent riots that took place in Jakarta last week. It has put President Joko Widodo’s administration in a difficult position as they attempt to hold those responsible for the violence accountable while not looking overly authoritarian in their response.

That tension was seen last Tuesday when news broke that Prabowo himself had been charged with treason shortly after the official results of the election were announced. Police quickly and quietly pulled Prabowo’s suspect status shortly after.

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