Subject: E.Timor trials resume; rights court is a tool of foreigners: defense

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

also: Indonesia rights court is a tool of foreigners: defence lawyers

E.Timor trials resume in Jakarta amid angry protest

By Joanne Collins

JAKARTA, March 25 (Reuters) - Indonesia resumed landmark trials on Monday over the orgy of violence which surrounded East Timor's 1999 independence vote, but protesters used the occasion to slam international interference.

Four middle-ranking military officers and a policeman are charged with failing to give protection to 24 East Timorese refugees and three priests killed in a church.

The trial, in the newly established human rights court, was adjourned after a few hours until next Monday.

Many countries have pressed Indonesia to pursue punishment for those involved in the East Timor violence, which the United Nations has estimated killed more than 1,000 people.

Around 50 protesters outside the courthouse directed their anger mainly at Australia, which led a multinational force into East Timor to quell the bloodshed.

The protesters carried an effigy of Australian Prime Minister John Howard and waved placards, including one that read "Howard is the Enemy of the People."

The demonstrators were closely watched by hundreds of police. There were no reports of trouble.

The East Timor trial was heard as Indonesia's parliamentary chief went on trial on a different floor of the same building over a $4 million graft scandal.

House speaker Akbar Tandjung faces a maximum 20 years in jail if convicted over abuse of power and graft in a case involving the misuse of $4 million from the state food agency Bulog.

Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra, the favourite son of former Indonesian autocrat Suharto, is also on trial for premeditated murder and other charges.

Both have denied wrongdoing.

The cases are among a string of moves some interpret as reflecting President Megawati Sukarnoputri's resolve to reform the country's legal system, criticised by some analysts as corrupt.


The Timor trial was packed with members of the media and other onlookers, including notorious former militia leader Eurico Guterres.

Guterres -- also a member of Megawati's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) -- served a six-month prison term a year ago for inciting violence in Indonesian West Timor in September 2000.

The swaggering ex-leader of the pro-Jakarta Aitarak milita gang is among 11 suspects awaiting trial by the human rights court for their alleged roles in the East Timor violence.

Aitarak was among several militia gangs that laid waste to the tiny territory after the landslide independence vote to break from 24 years of often brutal Indonesian rule.

In addition to the five suspects whose case was being argued on Monday, the trial of two others has also begun.

The East Timorese refugees and the priests were killed in the Ave Maria church at Suai on September 6, 1999.

But a lawyer for the defendants, Ruhut Sitompul, demanded the court drop the charges saying they did not specify the date or the time of the crime.

"The charges were...not accurate," Sitompul said.


Human rights groups have raised numerous concerns about the validity of the Timor trials and are not convinced they will adequately punish those responsible for the bloodshed.

Critics say a key flaw is the failure of authorities to put General Wiranto, Indonesia's military chief at the time, on trial.

The highest ranking armed forces suspects among those who are or are due to be tried are former regional military commander Major-General Adam Damiri, former East Timor military commander Brigadier-General Tono Suratman and ex-East Timor police chief Brigadier-General Timbul Silaen.

Indonesia rights court is a tool of foreigners: defence lawyers

JAKARTA, March 25 (AFP) - Defence lawyers Monday slammed Indonesia's new human rights court as a tool of foreign powers as the trial resumed of five army and police officers accused of gross human rights violations in East Timor in 1999.

For the second week running, uniformed fellow officers packed into the public gallery as a show of support for the accused. Outside, about 100 supporters of notorious pro-Jakarta militia chief Eurico Guterres shouted support for the Indonesian military and police actions in East Timor.

Four middle-ranking army officers and one police officer are accused of failing to prevent a massacre in a church at Suai in Covalima district on September 6, 1999. Some 27 people were killed.

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

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

A total of 18 military, police, militia and civilian officials including Guterres are due eventually to face trial in the rights court over the army-backed attacks by pro-Jakarta militias against independence supporters in April and September 1999.

A statement, read out in turn by defence lawyers, argued the rights court had no authority to hear the case.

They said some of the charges were criminal charges and not gross violations of human rights, that the court had no jurisdiction over East Timor and that it was set up through a flawed regulation that violates the constitution.

The same arguments have been used by defence lawyers in cases heard separately by the rights court, in which former East Timor governor Abilio Jose Osorio Soares and former East Timor police chief Timbul Silaen are defendants.

"It is very tragic that today the public is forced to watch a trial 'of the vanquished'," the defence statement said, describing the court as the tool of larger nations which conspired with Indonesians.

It said the trial was based only on the result of investigations by foreigners. "What is being stated by the prosecutors is no more that a product which has only had its package replaced with a local brand."

The lawyers also argued the East Timor violence was not the doing of Indonesian security personnel or official policy but resulted from "the legacy of latent enmity within an ethnic group for over 20 years."

They said the violence was purely between East Timorese from opposing camps -- pro-Indonesia and pro-independence. Defence lawyers also said the violence was sparked off by alleged fraud in the United Nations-organised independence ballot on August 30, 1999.

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

They killed hundreds of people, torched 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 but international rights groups are sceptical that the rights court will deliver justice.

The case was adjourned to April 2. Neither defendant is in custody.

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