Subject: AP: Five Indonesian Officers In E Timor Trials Plead Innocent

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

Five Indonesian Officers In E Timor Trials Plead Innocent

JAKARTA, July 30 (AP)--Five senior police and military officers charged with allowing a church massacre to take place in the former Indonesian province of East Timor pleaded innocent on Tuesday.

The men are among 18 Indonesian military and government officials on trial for crimes against humanity. They are accused of allowing pro-Indonesia militiamen to ransack the half-island territory and kill nearly 1,000 people before and after a U.N.-sponsored independence referendum in August 1999.

Former district head Col. Herman Sedyono - one of the five men on trial Tuesday - said in court he knew nothing beforehand about the Sept. 6, 1999 attack on the Ave Maria Church in Suai that left three priests and 24 refugees dead.

Sedyono admitted that he was present when pro-Jakarta militiamen attacked the church. However, he said his efforts to order the mob to stop were ignored.

One of the defendants' lawyers, Erman Umar, said prosecutors failed to link the five officers to the massacre.

"We demand that our clients be freed, since prosecutors never found that they allowed the violence to happen," Umar said.

Last week, prosecutors demanded that the five get 10 to 10 1/2 years in prison. The maximum penalty for such crimes is the death sentence.

A verdict is expected in the case next month.

Jakarta is under intense international pressure to punish those responsible for the bloodshed in East Timor. Critics, however, are skeptical that any of the defendants will face justice. They say the weak indictments, lax prosecution and light sentence demands underscore their point.

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