Subject: AP: Indonesia Senior Officials on Trial

Indonesia Senior Officials on Trial

By LELY T. DJUHARI Associated Press Writer

March 14, 2002, 7:53 AM EST

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Indonesia opened the first trials of senior officials accused of crimes against humanity during East Timor's drive for independence in 1999. Nearly 1,000 people were killed by Indonesian troops and militias.

With international observers and rights activists who have pressed for trials looking on, prosecutors read out the charges against former East Timor governor Abilio Soares and the territory's ex-police chief Gen. Timbul Silaen.

They are among 18 high ranking Indonesian officials -- including three army generals -- indicted last year in connection with the violence that swept East Timor before and after its voters overwhelmingly approved independence in a U.N.-sponsored referendum in August 1999.

Nearly 1,000 people died and most of the region's infrastructure destroyed by Indonesian troops and militias opposed to independence.

The two men, who were tried separately at the Central Jakarta District Court, are accused of allowing men under their command to commit widespread and systematic murder of civilians.

If convicted, they could face the death penalty.

Silaen told reporters that he regarded it as about as seriously as a university examination. "I am ready to face justice," he said.

Both court sessions heard how militiamen and government officials armed with knives, samurai swords and homemade weapons took part in massacres of 117 people who had taken refuge in churches and homes of religious leaders.

"The defendant (Soares) knew of and ignored information that grave human rights abuses were taking place," prosecutor I Ketut Murtika said.

After the charges were read out, Soares said he could not be held responsible for the violence. "It was just a mass brawl," he said.

Lawyers for both defendants argued the tribunal was illegal because it was set up by a presidential rather than a legislative decree.

Both cases were adjourned until next week when defense teams will continue presenting their arguments.

Outside the building, about 100 pro-military demonstrators, some with their bodies painted in the red and white colors of the Indonesian flag, rallied against the trial. They said it was unfairly being held on the orders of Australia and the United States.

Rights activists are skeptical that the suspects -- many of whom retain powerful and influential positions within the Indonesian bureaucracy -- will see real justice.

"The trial is primarily for show," said John M. Miller, spokesman for the East Timor Action Network.

Miller said the judges were unqualified and the legal system corrupt, and said that some of the worst atrocities will fall outside the court's limited jurisdiction.

U.N. officials have told Jakarta that if those responsible for the bloodshed do not face justice in Indonesian courts, an international war crimes tribunal, akin to those for former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, may be held.

Copyright © 2002, The Associated Press

Back to March menu

World Leaders Contact List
Human Rights Violations in East Timor
Main Postings Menu

Note: For those who would like to fax "the powers that be" - CallCenter is a Native 32-bit Voice Telephony software application integrated with fax and data communications... and it's free of charge! Download from