Subject: Top Military Pack Jakarta Court for E.Timor Trials

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

also: Senior Indonesian Officers Face Trial; and Five Indonesian officers accused of ignoring Timor church massacre

Top military pack Jakarta court for E.Timor trials

JAKARTA, March 19 (Reuters) - Indonesia resumed its first trials on Tuesday into the violence surrounding East Timor's bloody 1999 independence vote before a packed courtroom and under the watchful eye of the country's top military brass.

Around 300 demonstrators staged a noisy but peaceful protest outside the central Jakarta courtroom against the trial of five suspects in a church massacre in the southwest town of Suai where scores of East Timorese refugees and priests were killed.

The trials began at Jakarta's newly established human rights court last Thursday and are a watershed in Indonesia's attempts to show the international community it is serious about punishing those behind the carnage.

They also come amid a backdrop of separate legal moves against well-known figures -- including former President Suharto's son Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra and parliamentary speaker Akbar Tandjung -- which some have interpreted as President Megawati Sukarnoputri's resolve to reform the legal system.

The five suspects in the September 1999 massacre include four mainly middle ranking military officers and one civilian.

Human rights groups -- who have raised numerous concerns about the validity of the trials -- criticised the presence of Indonesian military chief (TNI) Admiral Widodo A.S. and other senior officials at the court on Tuesday, saying it could influence the judiciary.


"Their presence today could be seen as pressure or intervention," Hendardi, head of the Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association, told Reuters.

"I think these trials are a joke and the military brass want to make it look serious by attending the trial today," he added.

A total of 18 suspects, including three generals, will be put on trial over the East Timor violence.

International and local human rights advocates have raised numerous concerns over the trials, such as the fact court officials have said there was no immediate plan to call witnesses living in East Timor, making it unclear how judges will get a complete picture of what happened.

They have also criticised authorities for failing to put Wiranto, Indonesia's military chief at the time, on trial.

Last Thursday's trial involved East Timor's ex-police chief Brigadier General Timbul Silaen and the territory's former governor Abilio Soares. It was adjourned for a week.

Prosecutors accused both men of crimes against humanity for allowing pro-Jakarta militia gangs to go on a rampage, killing and wounding pro-independence East Timorese on at least four separate occasions from April to September 1999.

A lawyer from the defence team representing all 18 suspects has said none were guilty of any of the charges.

The militia gangs, backed by elements of the Indonesian military, laid waste to the tiny territory after the overwhelming vote to break from 24 years of often brutal Jakarta rule.

The United Nations -- which has administered East Timor since late 1999 -- estimates more than 1,000 people were killed in the violence.

The former Portuguese colony is due to become formally independent on May 20.

Five Indonesian officers accused of ignoring Timor church massacre

JAKARTA, March 19 (AFP) - Four Indonesian army officers and one police officer were accused Tuesday of gross human rights violations for failing to prevent a militia massacre of 27 civilians who had taken refuge in an East Timor church in September 1999.

The attack on the church at Suai was carried out by the Laksaur pro-Indonesia militia which was paid by the district government and received guidance from the local military, prosecutor Darmono told the second session of Indonesia's new human rights court.

Darmono (eds: one name) said the five officers knew the militiamen were "engaging in criminal actions that were part of widespread attacks on the civilian population" but failed to take any action.

It was not immediately clear what penalties they face if convicted.

In the dock are Colonel Herman Sedyono, 54, former Covalima district government chief; Colonel Lilik Kushardianto, 49, the former district military commander in Covalima; Major Ahmad Syamsuddin, 37, head of the general staff of the Covalima military command; and Captain Sugito, 49, former Suai town military commander.

Also on trial is Adjunct Senior Commissioner Gatot Subiyaktoro, 42, former Covalima district police chief.

Darmono said Kushardianto, as local military chief, provided guidance to the militia.

Ten of those killed in the church attack were women. The assault was led by the Laksaur leader Olivio Mendoza Moruk, who was murdered by unidentified men while in exile in Indonesian West Timor in September 2000.

"As superiors in the government and in the security field, the defendants failed to control their underlings or troops," Darmono told the trial at Central Jakarta district court.

Armed forces commander Admiral Widodo Adisucipto and several other military chiefs watched proceedings. The military has said their presence is a "show of support" for the defendants and not meant to intimidate the judges.

The rights court on March 14 opened hearings against former East Timor governor Abilio Soares and the territory's former police chief Timbul Silaen. Those hearings resume Thursday.

A total of 18 military, police, militia and civilian officials are due eventually to face trial over the attacks by pro-Jakarta militias against independence supporters in East Timor in 1999.

Militiamen organised by senior Jakarta officials waged a campaign of intimidation before East Timor's vote in August 1999 to split from Indonesia, and a "scorched earth" revenge campaign afterwards.

They killed hundreds of people, burned down towns and forced more than 250,000 people into Indonesian-ruled West Timor after the vote.

Jakarta has come under strong international pressure to punish the atrocities, with the United States refusing to resume high-level military contacts until it does.

But international rights groups are sceptical that the long-delayed rights court will deliver justice.

The Jakarta Post in an editorial said "foot-dragging in prosecuting those responsible for the violence has only destroyed what little credibility Indonesia still commanded in the eyes of the world in the wake of the 1999 mayhem."

The human right court, it said, is "not simply a matter of restoring Indonesia's honour and integrity in the eyes of the world. We owe this to ourselves as much as to the East Timorese who lost their lives, their livelihoods and their homes in 1999."

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