Subject: Indon army chief backs lawyers refusing UN probe over Timor

Indonesian army chief backs lawyers refusing UN probe over Timor

JAKARTA, Dec 12 (AFP) - Indonesia's armed forces chief on Tuesday threw his support behind lawyers who have rejected UN attempts to quiz officers accused of masterminding last year's wave of terror in East Timor.

The statement came as Indonesian prosecutors said they were issuing a third summons to five Indonesian military and police officers to be questioned in the presence of representatives from the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET).

The officers ignored two previous summons last week.

"As far as the legal process is concerned, no TNI (military) officer is to be investigated or questioned by UNTAET," Admiral Widodo Adisucipto told journalists after meeting Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid.

The Indonesian authorities' stand on the issue was clear, he added.

"The government rejects any intervention or meddling by foreign parties. We have our own procedures, regulations and national legal system," Widodo said.

Defence lawyers for the military and police officers last week rejected the questioning, as UNTAET legal officers waited in vain at the attorney general's office.

A letter outlining their refusal was sent to the heads of the Indonesian armed forces and police and to the home affairs minister, one lawyer said.

Attorney General Marzuki Darusman said a memorandum of understanding signed on April 5 by his office and UNTAET had laid out the procedures for the questioning.

UNTAET investigators would only attend the questioning by prosecutors from the attorney general's office and would not themselves quiz the suspects, he said.

The five in question are former East Timor police chief Brigadier General Timbul Silaen, former Liquica district chief Adios Salova and three senior police officers formerly posted in East Timor.

The five were all on the list of 22 suspects named by the attorney general's office in September.

Hundreds of people were killed in the wave of violence and arson, led by militias raised and trained by the Indonesian army, which erupted after the territory's independence vote on August 30, 1999.

More than 250,000 East Timorese were forced to flee to neighbouring West Timor and around 120,000 are still believed to be in squalid camps there where the militias reportedly continued to rule.

The militia followed the refugees to West Timor when international troops arrive in the East to halt the rampage.

UN human rights chief Mary Robinson has warned that if Indonesia fails to bring those responsible to trial, the suspects could be tried by an international tribunal.

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