Subject: East Timor inquiry ends questioning of TNI

Jakarta Post January 18, 2000

East Timor inquiry ends questioning of TNI

JAKARTA (JP): The Commission of Inquiry into Human Rights Violations (KPP HAM) in East Timor ended its questioning of Indonesian Military (TNI) officers on Monday, well ahead of its Jan. 31 deadline to submit its report to the government.

Army First Lt. Sugito, who was commander of the military in the East Timor border town of Suai during the mayhem in September, was questioned about his activities on Sept. 6 when 27 people, including three Catholic priests, were killed.

During the questioning, Sugito acknowledged he helped bury the victims in Belu inside the Indonesian border, but stressed he did it out of a humanitarian calling.

The mass grave was one of the most significant findings during a visit by the commission in November, following earlier speculation of massacres committed by pro-Indonesia East Timorese militias.

Human rights lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis, a member of the commission, said he found Sugito's answers unsatisfactory.

"We believe he was in a psychological state that was not conducive to answering the questions," Todung said.

"His answers were inconsistent with his earlier statements and with the testimony of others."

Sugito said after the two-hour questioning that while he helped bury the victims, he failed to report it to his superiors.

"The incident should have been reported by the Suai Police station which was located near the church. I was evacuating the families of military members and refugees when the shooting inside the church took place. When I arrived at the scene in the afternoon, there were only the bodies," he said.

"The East Timorese then asked me to bury them away from Suai which was in a critical situation at that time."

Another commission member, Nursyahbani Katjasungkana, said Sugito admitted that the killers were members of Laksaur militias, and they were at the scene when the military arrived.

The commission, which questioned several TNI generals and officers in the last three weeks, plans to visit East Timor for a "final check" this week.

Lawyers representing the TNI officers are also planning to visit East Timor this week to conduct their own investigation.

The commission's final report will determine whether there is a case to try Indonesian generals in connection with the unrest. A separate international inquiry has already presented its report, with UN Secretary- General Kofi Annan expected to issue a ruling soon. (01)

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