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  Channel NewsAsia 28 Apr 07
Indonesian minister questions release of illegal logging suspects

JAKARTA : Indonesia's Forestry Minister said he could not accept the release of illegal logging suspects and called for an investigation of judges handling the cases, reports said Saturday.

District courts in North and West Sumatra provinces recently released suspects in illegal logging cases, deciding prosecution charges were groundless, The Jakarta Post daily reported.

But minister Malam Sambat Kaban insisted that police and prosecutors would not have brought charges unless there had been strong evidence.

"Judges who release illegal logging suspects should be investigated by the Supreme Court," he said, adding that releasing the suspects would encourage illegal logging.

"The verdict has justified what the suspects have been doing all the time," Kaban reportedly said.

He said 37.6 million hectares (93 million acres) of forest were in critical condition. The government has launched a reforestation programme this year, aiming to replant two million hectares of forest. - AFP/ir

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