Beat Them and They'll Still Join You

As he campaigns to become Indonesia's next president, Prabowo Subianto is often asked about his past. Prabowo was a commander in Indonesia's notorious military special forces unit, Kopassus, under the dictator Suharto. But he's found "a novel way of deflecting concerns" about his role in serious human rights abuses: "he has hired some of the activists abducted and beaten by his troops as campaign workers and legislative candidates." Pius Lustrilanang, now a legislative candidate with Prabowo's Gerindra party, was kidnapped by Kopassus forces in 1998. "They interrogated me, tortured me and I was beaten," he recalled. "They held me for about two months." Lustrilanang admitted that "the wealth behind the Prabowo campaign was a factor in [his] joining the party." Prabowo has also been "accused of orchestrating multiple abuses during Indonesia's occupation of East Timor and playing a role in the looting of Chinese businesses and the mass rape of Indonesian-Chinese women in Jakarta" in 1998. Yet, with his party's "slickly produced TV ads," Prabowo is considered "a dark horse" in Indonesia's July 2009 presidential elections.