Subject: Ex-Military Chief Wiranto Calls E. Timor Trials Unfair

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

Indonesian Ex-Military Chief Calls E. Timor Trials Unfair

JAKARTA, Jan. 9 (AP) -- Indonesia's disgraced former military commander Gen. Wiranto Wednesday described as unfair the prosecution of 19 military officials and militiamen for alleged human rights abuses in East Timor in 1999, saying soldiers under his command did nothing wrong.

His comments come shortly before the trials are scheduled to start in a special human rights court.

Wiranto was armed forces commander when East Timor voted to break away from Indonesia on Aug. 30, 1999. News that the territory had opted for independence in a U.N.-sponsored referendum sparked a bloody rampage by the Indonesian army and its militia proxies.

Hundreds of people were killed and about 250,000 others forced to flee their homes. The violence only ended when international peacekeepers arrived.

Wiranto and other military commanders have been blamed for the bloodshed by Indonesian and international rights campaigners.

"I know exactly what we did there. We did not do anything wrong," he said. "It is not fair to try us ... as human rights abusers."

Though three generals are on the list of 19 defendants, Wiranto's name has been excluded.

Under Indonesian law, the armed forces' top brass cannot be held accountable for crimes committed by soldiers in the field, and prosecutors say they have no evidence of any wrongdoing by Wiranto.

Still, Wiranto described as biased the criminal investigation, saying it relied on foreign sources, including the U.N. and neighboring Australia, for evidence.

"We invited about 4,000 foreign observers and reporters to observe the vote," said Wiranto, who was forced to resign two years ago by the then President Abdurrahman Wahid.

"Not a single monitor died. How can we have committed human rights abuses when there were foreign observers and reporters before and after the vote."

Militiamen killed two journalists and six East Timorese working for the U.N. mission there at the time.

The Ad-Hoc Human Rights Court - which will hear cases of military atrocities in Timor and other Indonesian troublespots - was initially scheduled to open on Dec. 1. However, it was postponed until Jan. 15, because current President Megawati Sukarnoputri hadn't chosen the tribunal's judges.

Now, a week before the first case is supposed to start, Megawati - who has close ties with the army brass - has still not selected the justices, and government officials say it is almost certain the trials will again be postponed.

The cases will be closely watched by the international community, which has expressed outrage over human rights abuses in East Timor. 


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