Subject: AP: Militants Accused Of UN Staff Murders On Trial In Jakarta

Associated Press January 11, 2001

Militants Accused Of UN Staff Murders On Trial In Jakarta

JAKARTA (AP)--The trials of six militants charged with murdering three U.N. aid workers in the worst attack ever against the world body's civilian staff, opened Thursday in Jakarta.

"They intended to kill the three (U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees) staffers by stabbing and stoning them," state prosecutor Widodo Supriyati declared in his opening statement. "After they killed them, they set fire to the bodies."

The prosecutions come after months of intense international pressure on the Indonesian government to disarm the militia bands sheltering in West Timor and bring to justice the killers. Despite claims that the Sept. 6 attack was masterminded by senior army commanders, the subsequent investigation focused only on low-ranking paramilitaries.

The six defendants were being tried in two courtrooms at the North Jakarta District Court. The three men accused of actually committing the murders were charged separately from those indicted as accessories in the killings.

Prosecutors said the three UNHCR officials - Carlos Caceres of Puerto Rico, Samson Aregahegn of Ethiopia and Pero Simundza of Croatia - were stoned and stabbed to death when a mob attacked their offices in Atambua, a town in West Timor near the border with East Timor.

Suhardi Sumomulyono, a lawyer for one of the accused, said the defendants had not planned to kill anyone during the anti-U.N. protest.

"Although they killed those people, they did not do it intentionally," he said.

Witnesses said Indonesian security forces, who had assured the world body it would protect its operations, stood by as the mob torched the office.

The attack forced international aid groups to pull out of West Timor, leaving up to 120,000 refugees from East Timor scattered over close to 200 camps, without relief aid.

The refugees fled from East Timor in September 1999, when the Indonesian army and its militia auxiliaries launched a campaign of killing and looting in the wake of a U.N.-organized referendum in which voters overwhelmingly opted for independence.

The violence ended with the arrival of international peacekeepers later that month. The militia gangs escaped from the province along with the withdrawing Indonesian troops.

East Timor, a former Portuguese colony, was occupied by the Indonesian army in 1975 and ruled with an iron fist until the downfall of Indonesia's army-backed dictator Suharto. It is being administered by the United Nations during its transition to full independence next year.

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