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Indonesian presidential hopeful targeted over abductions

Indonesian lawyers said on Wednesday they have filed a lawsuit aimed at hauling an ex-general running for president before a rights court over the abduction of student activists.

JAKARTA: Indonesian lawyers said on Wednesday they have filed a lawsuit aimed at hauling an ex-general running for president before a rights court over the abduction of student activists.

Prabowo Subianto, a former commander of the army's notorious special forces, will face Joko Widodo in the race to become leader of the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation on July 9, with Widodo seen as the favourite.

Allegations of human rights abuses by Subianto have come into sharp focus in recent weeks.

He has previously admitted to ordering the kidnap of several activists in the months before a student movement toppled the three-decade Suharto dictatorship in 1998.

Subianto was sacked from his position in the military over those abductions. But he has never faced a civilian court and denies any involvement in the high-profile disappearances of 13 other activists, who were abducted around the same time and have never been found.

The suit was filed on Tuesday at a court in the capital Jakarta, the same day Subianto officially registered his candidacy for the presidential polls at the election commission, where activists protested and called the former general a "murderer".

The legal case is aimed at forcing the government to set up a special human rights court to try the alleged kidnappers, including Subianto -- something which the Indonesian parliament pledged to do in 2009 but is yet to carry out.

"We are concerned that if (Subianto) is elected, the case will never be tried," lawyer Antoni Silo told AFP.

He added that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was also named in the suit, as activists accuse him over the failure to set up the rights court.

Subianto's representatives were not immediately available for comment.

Previous attempts to get the ex-general and others to answer for the abductions have failed.

A investigation in 2006 by Indonesia's human rights commission included victims' accounts of beatings and torture at the hands of Subianto's unit. The report was passed to the attorney general's office but it has never taken action.

Subianto has also been accused over a massacre that left 300 dead in East Timor in 1983 during its resistance against Indonesian occupation.

Human rights groups frequently accused the special forces, Kopassus, of human rights abuses during Suharto's military-backed rule.

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