Subject: Men in military uniform buried massacre victims: Witness

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

The Jakarta Post [online] May 7, 2002

Men in military uniform buried massacre victims: Witness

Three witnesses told the Human Rights Tribunal on Tuesday that they saw a number of people in military uniform burying victims of a massacre in a mass grave in Metamauk village in Wemasa, Belu, East Nusa Tenggara, in 1999.

One of the three witnesses, former company commander of the East Nusa Tenggara's Mobile Brigade police first Insp. Sudarminto, said that 27 bodies were buried in the grave, including those of three Catholic priests, and were victims of the Sept. 6, 1999 massacre at St. Ave Maria Church in Suai, Covalima regency, East Timor.

Sudarminto testified that the mass burial was done in the presence of former Suai military commander Lt. Col. Sugito -- one of the five defendants accused of committing gross human rights violations.

Sudarminto said that he went to the grave site after being informed by subordinates that a convoy of cars driven by military personnel was passing through their territory in Wemasa.

"I, along with my subordinates, arrived at the location a few minutes later. But suddenly an unidentified man in a military uniform approached and told me not to go any closer to the location.

"I only heard later that it was the burial for about 27 East Timorese killed after the massacre at the St. Ave Maria Church," Sudarminto said.

Tuesday's hearing was part of the ongoing trial of four mid-level military officers and one policeman accused of rights violations in the massacre, in which at least 27 people were killed, including Catholic priests Tarsisius Dewanto, Hilario Madeira and Francisco Soares.

Sugito and four other defendants -- former Covalima regent Col. Herman Sedyono, former Suai military commander Lt. Col. Liliek Koeshadianto, former Suai military command's chief of staff Capt. Achmad Syamsuddin and former Suai Police precinct chief Lt. Col. Gatot Subiaktoro -- are charged with violating Articles 7, 9, 37 and 42 of Law No. 26/2000 on human rights violations.

The crimes carry maximum sentences ranging from 10 years in jail to death.

Asked whether the uniform was only worn by military personnel, Sudarminto said: "All I know is that only military personnel wear uniforms with stripes." (tso)

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