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Cablegate: Supreme Court Reportedly Overturns Defamation

VZCZCXRO0321
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHJA #1944/01 2950816
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 210816Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY JAKARTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0372
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS PRIORITY
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 5513
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 3181
RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 1384
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 1357
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 5030
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 2627
RUEHPB/AMEMBASSY PORT MORESBY 4047
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON 3182
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 3038
RUEHPT/AMCONSUL PERTH 1212
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORP 0089
RUEAWJB/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 JAKARTA 001944

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP/MTS, EAP/MLS, EAP/PD, INL FOR BOULDIN
DEPT FOR EEB/IFD/OMA
DOJ/OPDAT FOR LEHMANN/ALEXANDRE
NSC FOR E. PHU

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KCOR KJUS ID
SUBJECT: SUPREME COURT REPORTEDLY OVERTURNS DEFAMATION
RULING AGAINST TIME MAGAZINE

REF: A. JAKARTA 377
B. JAKARTA 433
C. 07 JAKARTA 2969
D. 07 JAKARTA 2525

JAKARTA 00001944 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) This message is Sensitive but Unclassified--Please
handle accordingly.

2. (SBU) SUMMARY: Mission has informally heard that the
Indonesia's Supreme Court has overturned its previous
decision awarding damages in a case against TIME Asia in the
Suharto defamation case, but no official announcement has
been made. In 2007, the Supreme Court awarded ex-dictator
Suharto (now deceased) $106 million in damages in a libel
lawsuit filed against TIME for reporting that Suharto and his
six children had accumulated $18 billion of wealth during his
tenure. TIME sought a judicial review after the Supreme
Court previously sided with Suharto.

3. (SBU SUMMARY (Con'd): The decision has not yet been made
public. If confirmed, it would be positive for press freedom
in Indonesia. If asked by the media, Mission recommends the
Department reply that we have no word on a decision. END
SUMMARY

4. (SBU) Two sources recently told Mission that they had
heard informally that a ruling favoring TIME in the
TIME/Suharto case has been made, but the Supreme Court has
made no official announcement. One of these sources, Todung
Mulya Lubis, head of the TIME defense team, told us that he
had also heard indications that the court had reached a
favorable decision, but had not yet been notified by the
court. Contacts at the clerk's office at the Supreme Court,
where rulings are recorded, told us October 21 that they had
not received word of a decision. Assistant to the Chief
Justice, Roki Panjaitan told us no verdict had been made in
the case.

5. (SBU) BACKGROUND: On September 10, 2007 the Indonesian
Supreme Court ordered TIME Asia to pay former president
Suharto 1 trillion IR ($106 million) in damages for
defamation of character, for reporting on the extent of
Suharto's corrupt activities. That ruling overturned a
previous decision by the lower courts in TIME's favor. The
suit concerned a May 1999 article which described how the
Suharto family had accumulated $15 billion in ill-gotten
gains during Suharto's 30-year rule. (ref C). TIME sought a
judicial review of the ruling. END BACKGROUND

6. (SBU) The fact that the decision has not been made public
is not unusual in Indonesia. Lubis said it was standard
procedure for the Supreme Court to first send the decision to
the district court, which then notifies the parties in the
case. This process generally takes two to three weeks, but
can take as long as two months. Lubis added that there is
precedent for the Supreme Court to make its decisions public
without waiting for the paperwork to flow through the
district court. He said a favorable ruling would be "good
news," but would wait for an official announcement. He fears
the Supreme Court could delay the announcement pending "the
right time" or because "the other side is closely watching
the court." Lubis did not seek assistance from Mission to
speed up the announcement process.

7. (SBU) The Supreme Court now publishes its rulings on its
website as the result of a grant from USAID's Millennium
Challenge Corporation Threshold program. Despite a recent
press release announcing 5,000 cases had been uploaded, there
remains a huge back-log of cases waiting to be published

JAKARTA 00001944 002.2 OF 002


online. Therefore, we should not expect to see this ruling
published on its website any time soon.

8. (SBU) A favorable ruling by the Supreme Court would send a
strong message for freedom of the press, good governance and
democratic institutions in Indonesia. Additionally, it would
increase investor confidence by decreasing perceptions of
legal uncertainty for foreign investors. Mission is awaiting
a formal announcement by the Supreme Court and recommends the
Department, if asked, respond that we have no indication a
formal decision has been reached in the TIME case.
HUME

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