Subject: Lawyer for military officers deny East Timor massacre policy

Lawyer denies East Timor massacre policy

JAKARTA (IO) - A member of the team of lawyers defending military officials suspected of coordinating last year's orgy of violence and murder in East Timor has claimed there was never a central policy to order to the massacre in Suai region.

Lawyer Yan Juanda Saputra yesterday said there was no policy or directive from Jakarta to gun down civilians in Suai.

Scores of people seeking refuge in a Suai church were massacred by the military-backed militias in early September last year after the announcement that 78.5% of East Timorese had voted for independence.

Many human rights activists and foreign journalists believe that elements of the Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI) and government had conceived a "scorched earth" policy to unleash chaos in East Timor if it dared to secede.

But Juanda said that's rubbish. "It's so obvious there was no central policy behind the incident. It was so spontaneous, and made the apparatus [military] so stunned and unable to handle the situation," he said.

He reiterated the military's extremely hackneyed allegation that all of the unrest in East Timor was a spontaneous reaction by the militia groups - which were created by the Indonesian military and government.

"It was caused by the plebiscite announcement, which had been accelerated and disappointed the pro-integration militia," Juanda told reporters.

The lawyer was speaking after accompanying former Suai Police chief Superintendent Gatot Subiaktoro and former Liquica Police chief Superintendent Adios Salova at the Attorney General's Office.

Juanda said that after the results of the referendum were announced, pro- Jakarta East Timorese and migrants from other parts of Indonesia living in Suai all decided to leave the town. But, he added, as the militias were about to go, the pro-independence supporters came down from their mountain hideouts, celebrating the result of the ballot.

"Local witnesses said that it [the indiscriminate massacre] was also triggered by old grudges that had been around ever since the Suai church became an anti-integration place. The incident occurred when the pro- integration supporters were provoked by the euphoria of the anti- integration supporters, who were celebrating their victory in the plebiscite."

The Attorney General's Office has started questioned some of the 19 people who were recently declared suspects in the East Timor carnage.

Attorney General's Office spokesman Yushar Yahya said six witnesses had been summoned for yesterday. One of them was Brigadier General Tono Suratman, former chief of the 164 Wiradharma Military Command in East Timor.

He was quizzed as a witness over the testimony of another suspect, Colonel Yayat Sudrajat, the former Tribuana task force commander in East Timor, who was questioned on Monday.

The Suai massacre is one of five cases the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) investigated in order to gather facts on crimes against humanity conducted by the militias and Indonesian military in East Timor.

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