Subject: AAP: Trial over Atambua massacre begins

January 11, 2001, Thursday Trial over Atambua massacre begins 
By Catharine Munro, South-East Asia Correspondent

JAKARTA, Jan 10 AAP - Indonesian authorities today charged three men with murder following the worst attack ever against United Nations refugee workers.

Julius Naisama, 30, Jose Fransisco, 35, and Joao Alves da Crus, 26, were accused in North Jakarta State Court of murdering three staff from the UN High Commissioner for Refugee in Atambua, West Timor, last September.

"They deliberately murdered three staff of UNHCR," chief prosecutor Widodo Supriyadi told the court.

Supriyadi accused the three men of stabbing to death Carlos Caceres, Samson Aregahegn and Pero Simundza and then burning their corpses in front of the UNHCR office, using tyres as fuel.

"The bodies were completely burned and difficult to identify," the prosecutor said.

The attack caused international outrage last year, with Indonesian security forces accused of standing by and doing nothing to save the three men.

Indonesia came under intense pressure to bring the perpetrators to justice and to rein in the militia groups, still based in West Timor today.

Prosecutors also charged three other men with property damage and bodily harm in the attack and told the court they would call a total of 11 witnesses during the case.

They said the attack took place around midday after a large crowd attended the funeral of a militia gang leader Olivio Mendoza Moruk.

They accused the six defendants of storming the UNHCR office, where five of them pelted the three aid workers with stones.

One of the victims, Samson Aregahegn, used a wooden club to defend himself and his colleagues as they were stabbed to death.

Despite the fact that the rest of the aid group's staff managed to scramble to safety, Indonesian authorities have not contacted the UN for witness statements.

Militia gangs have been based in West Timor since 1999, when they waged a campaign of destruction during East Timor's vote for independence.

An estimated 90,000 East Timorese remain in West Timor, many unable to return home since foreign aid workers were evacuated from the province following the attack in Atambua.

About 450,000 East Timorese fled or were forcibly deported from East Timor during the mayhem in 1999.

The trial was adjourned to next Tuesday.

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