Subject: East Timor massacre survivors shun Jakarta trial over safety fears

East Timor massacre survivors shun Jakarta trial over safety fears

JAKARTA, June 4 (AFP) - Three survivors of a 1999 militia massacre in East Timor failed to show up Tuesday to testify at the Jakarta trial of five Indonesian soldiers and policemen, citing fears for their safety.

The human rights court postponed the hearing until June 11 after Armindo Deodeus Gronades, Tobias dos Santos and Fez da Costa failed to attend.

Prosecutor Darmono (eds: one name), reading a letter from the East Timorese prosecutor's office dated Monday, said the three would not testify in the capital of former ruler Indonesia due to "concerns for their safety".

"This reasoning is excessive because whenever East Timorese are testifying, security authorities are deploying up to four companies of men (around 400 men), so their security is totally guaranteed," Darmono told the court.

Three East Timorese, including one woman, testified under tight security at the same court last week. The woman gave evidence against the five officers while the two men testified in two other trials -- of a former East Timor governor and a former police chief there.

The five defendants in Tuesday's trial are Colonel Herman Sedyono, Captain Sugito (eds: one name), Colonel Liliek Kushadianto and Major Achmad Syamsudin -- all from the army -- and Adjunct Senior Police Commissioner Gatot Subiyaktoro.

They are accused of gross rights violations by failing to prevent a massacre of 27 people at a church in Suai on September 6, 1999. They face sentences ranging from 10 years in prison to death if convicted.

Judge Cicut Sutiarso said that if the three witnesses fail to apear next week, the court would read out their written testimony.

Apart from the seven already on trial, 11 others -- including security and civilian officials and an East Timorese militia chief -- are due to face the court over army-backed attacks by pro-Jakarta militias against East Timorese independence supporters in April and September 1999.

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


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