Indonesian defense minister to visit US after 20-year ban over human rights abuses

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Prabowo Subianto. (Supplied)
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Prabowo Subianto. (Photo/Wikipedia)
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Updated 10 October 2020

Indonesian defense minister to visit US after 20-year ban over human rights abuses

  • Subianto was invited to the US by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper for talks on bilateral defense cooperation
  • He had been barred from the US over the disappearances of political activists and deadly riots amid 1998 protests in Jakarta

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s Minister of Defense Prabowo Subianto has been invited to visit the US next week, in what would mark the end of a travel ban imposed on him by the US two decades ago.

Subianto, a former commander of the Indonesian Army’s special forces, was invited to the US by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper for talks on bilateral defense cooperation, following their phone conversation in August. His visit is scheduled for Oct. 15-19, the minister’s spokesman confirmed.

“Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto will accept the US government’s formal invitation conveyed by the US defense secretary, Mark Esper,” the spokesman, Dahnil Anzar Simanjuntak, told Arab News in a written statement on Thursday.

“In accordance with the nonaligned, active foreign policy and without being involved in a military alliance with any country, Defense Minister of Indonesia, Prabowo Subianto, has been actively engaging in defense diplomacy to various countries including the United States,” he said.

According to a readout from the US Department of Defense, issued by the US Embassy in Jakarta on Aug. 4, the Subianto-Esper phone discussion covered military cooperation in the wake of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, maritime security, defense acquisitions, and military exercises, and said that both Esper and Subianto “conveyed their desire to meet in person soon.”

Subianto and Esper had met in person earlier on the sidelines of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations defense ministers’ meeting in Bangkok in November 2019.

BACKGROUND

Prabowo Subianto and Mark Esper met on the sidelines of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations defense ministers’ meeting in Bangkok in November 2019.

Experts see the invitation as Washington’s inclination to overlook allegations of past human rights abuses by leading figures in the Indo-Pacific region.

“It is a way for Trump’s administration to show the countries they are engaging with that the US will not be meddling much in those countries’ domestic affairs,” Suzie Sudarman, an American studies lecturer at the University of Indonesia, told Arab News.

“Subianto is now a public official, representing a country that has the possibility to procure US defense products. If the visit results in a deal, Trump will have something to say about securing a deal to enhance his ‘America First’ and ‘Make America Great Again’ slogans,” she said. She added that it is unlikely that Subianto would experience the same treatment as former Indonesian military chief Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo, who was barred from boarding a US-bound plane in October 2017 despite an official invitation from his US counterpart.

According to Sudarman, with his family background, Subianto has always been inclined to the US, which makes him somewhat “acceptable” there, despite rights abuse allegations. His visit is also considered “less risky” for Trump’s image ahead of the US presidential election.

Along with other members of the Indonesian special forces (Kopassus), Subianto had been barred from the US over the disappearances of political activists and deadly riots amid protests in Jakarta, which in 1998 led to the fall of his then-father-in-law, former President Suharto, who ruled Indonesia for over three decades.

Subianto was forced to retire early from the military following regime change and went into self-exile in Jordan, with whose King Abdullah he is friends.

The US ban to engage with Kopassus was lifted in 2010.

An executive of Subianto’s Gerindra Party, Sufmi Dasco Ahmad, said in October last year that the three-star general was no longer barred from visiting the US upon his appointment as defense minister.

Subianto, whose Gerindra Party was Indonesia’s main opposition party in last year’s elections, was appointed defense minister in October 2019. In 2014 and 2019, he was President Joko Widodo’s competitor for the country’s top office.

Since he took the post, Subianto has been on state visits to numerous countries, including China, France, Turkey, Japan, Russia and the UAE.

Riefqi Muna, a foreign policy researcher at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, told Arab News that Subianto’s US visit as minister was just “a matter of time” as Indonesia and the US have always had good defense cooperation.

“I hope he brings home some good news that Indonesia can have better access to modern military equipment and opens the door for our military officers to train in the US,” Muna said, adding that it is likely that Indonesia’s planned purchase of the US-made F-35 fighter jets would be among the issues discussed by Subianto and Esper.

 


US judge delays extradition of Carlos Ghosn's accused escape plotters to Japan

Updated 29 October 2020

US judge delays extradition of Carlos Ghosn's accused escape plotters to Japan

  • Prosecutors say the Taylors facilitated a "brazen" escape in which Ghosn fled Japan on Dec. 29, 2019
  • Ghosn was awaiting trial on charges that he engaged in financial wrongdoing

BOSTON: A federal judge on Thursday granted a last-minute request to stop the US government from turning over to Japan two Massachusetts men to face charges that they helped smuggle former Nissan Motor Co Chairman Carlos Ghosn out of the country while he was awaiting trial on financial crimes.
US District Judge Indira Talwani in Boston granted a request by lawyers for US Army Special Forces veteran Michael Taylor and his son, Peter Taylor, to delay the transfer shortly before the two men were scheduled to be placed on a flight to Japan.
Their lawyers sought the delay after the State Department approved handing over the men, who in September lost a court challenge to their potential extradition. They were arrested in May at the request of Japanese authorities.
Taylors' lawyers and the State Department did not respond to requests for comment.
Prosecutors say the Taylors facilitated a "brazen" escape in which Ghosn fled Japan on Dec. 29, 2019, hidden in a box and on a private jet before reaching Lebanon, his childhood home, which has no extradition treaty with Japan.
Ghosn was awaiting trial on charges that he engaged in financial wrongdoing, including by understating his compensation in Nissan's financial statements. Ghosn denies wrongdoing.
The State Department notified the Taylors' lawyers of its decision on Wednesday.
US Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi, a Republican who has taken interest in the case, wrote on Twitter that he was "outraged" by the State Department's decision to extradite the two men. "This former Special Forces member and his son will not be treated fairly," he said.