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Cablegate: Time Magazine Fighting to Overturn Defamation Ruling In

VZCZCXRO6904
RR RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHJA #2969/01 2961210
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 231210Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY JAKARTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6771
INFO RUEAWJB/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORP WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 1001
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 4420
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 1419
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 4255
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 JAKARTA 002969

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS, EEB/IFD/OIA, INL BOULDIN
L/LEI FOR BUCHHOLZ
DOJ FOR CRIM AAG SWARTZ
DOJ/OIA FOR WARNER/ROBINSON
DOJ/OPDAT FOR ALEXANDRE/LEHMANN/JOHNSON
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MCC FOR AMBASSADOR DANILOVICH AND MORFORD
DEPT PASS USTR FOR AMBASSADOR SCHWAB
TREASURY FOR IA - BAUKOL
USAID FOR ANE/AA WARD

SENSITIVE
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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KCOR ECON KJUS ID
SUBJECT: TIME MAGAZINE FIGHTING TO OVERTURN DEFAMATION RULING IN
INDONESIA

REF: Jakarta 2525

JAKARTA 00002969 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: TIME magazine will soon file for judicial review -
its last available legal option - in the Suharto defamation case.
The Supreme Court ruled on August 30 that TIME must pay $111 million
to former President Suharto due to defamation of character caused by
a May 1999 TIME cover story (see reftel). The Supreme Court has
overturned similar cases through judicial review in the past,
although the process could take years. Beyond press freedom, the
TIME case is an investment climate issue, raising serious doubts
about rule of law in Indonesia. End Summary.

Working within the Indonesian Legal System
------------------------------------------

2. (SBU) TIME Indonesia's correspondent Jason Tedjasukmana told us
that TIME's legal team will file for Supreme Court judicial review
by the end of the month. Judicial review is the last available
legal option to appeal the case. TIME wants to file the review
quickly to maintain the case's public profile. Prominent lawyer and
Transparency International Indonesia chairman Todung Mulya Lubis is
leading the TIME defense team.

3. (SBU) The judicial review process could last months, if not
years, according to Tedjasukmana. Through its judicial review
function, the Supreme Court has overturned previous decisions, but
it is not common. TIME plans to seek review on the basis of
"manifest error," arguing error was made in the previous court
judgment. The Supreme Court also reviews cases if new evidence is
presented, but Tedjasukmana said they have no new evidence to
present.

4. (SBU) The defense team may also argue that the Supreme Court
based its original decision on civil code whereas the Indonesian
press law should have been applied, according to Tedjasukmana. In
2006, the Supreme Court overturned a district court decision against
leading Indonesian weekly Tempo when Indonesian businessman Tommy
Winata filed defamation charges. The Supreme Court applied the
press law, overturning the district court's use of criminal law.

The Man Behind the Man
----------------------

5. (SBU) Tedjasukmana suggested that one factor that would help
TIME's strategy to overturn the ruling is the retirement of the
Supreme Court judge who made the original decision. Supreme Court
judges are unlikely to rule against one of their own, he said. If
the original case's lead judge retires, he does not lose face if
judicial review overturns his original decision. As the judicial
review will likely take months if not years, this strategy is a
viable option.

6. (SBU) German Hoediarto (Vice Chair of the Supreme Court's
military unit), M. Taufik, and Bahaudin Qaudry made the August 30
Supreme Court ruling against TIME. Close to retirement, Hoediarto
is a strong nationalist with former military connections to Suharto.
Hoediarto allegedly owes his two military stars to Suharto,
according to our contacts. Although many in the public suspect
corruption, nobody has provided evidence that corruption influenced
the Supreme Court's decision.

Background: Preparing for the Final Round?
------------------------------------------

7. (U) The August 30 Supreme Court decision is the third chapter in
this long legal drama between TIME and Suharto. District and
appellate courts originally ruled in favor of TIME since Suharto
filed a lawsuit after the May 24, 1999 TIME "Suharto, Inc." article.
This Supreme Court decision overturned these lower court decisions,
finding defamation under civil code (see reftel).

JAKARTA 00002969 002.2 OF 002

8. (U) The local media has been united in strongly criticizing the
ruling as a blow to press freedom. The wider public opinion is more
mixed: some expressing nationalist reactions to protect Suharto,
others claiming corruption was involved in the decision-making
process. TIME vowed to contest the judgment, saying, "TIME will use
every avenue available to fight for the defense of press freedoms.
We will challenge this judgment by filing with the [Supreme] Court a
petition for [judicial] review," according to an October 10 press
release.


Investors See Lack of Legal Certainty
-------------------------------------

8. (SBU) Beyond press freedom implications, this case calls into
question again the integrity of the Indonesian judicial system for
foreign investors. The decision highlights the sometimes capricious
application of laws in Indonesia. Business leaders have said that
the TIME case contributes to negative perceptions of the investment
climate in Indonesia. We will raise the TIME case with Indonesian
officials to convey how this decision negatively affects the
investment climate, as well as Indonesia's international image.

HUME

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