Subject: AP: Indonesian troops stood by as militia attacked East Timor church witness

Indonesian troops stood by as militia attacked East Timor church witness says 12/16/2002 08:40:22

By CHRIS BRUMMITT Associated Press Writer

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) _ Indonesian security forces looked on but did nothing when a pro-Indonesia mob attacked a church in East Timor, killing at least 27 people, a witness said Monday during the trial of an army general accused over the violence three years ago.

Noer Muis, East Timor's former military chief, is accused of failing to prevent pro-Indonesia militiamen from attacking the Ave Maria church in Suai on Sept. 6, 1999. He faces the death penalty if convicted. The massacre was typical of the violence that swept East Timor before and after the territory voted to break from Indonesia in a U.N-sponsored ballot in August 1999.

The police and military were outside the church but ``were only overseeing'' when the massacre took place, Suai police detective Tobias Santos told the court.

Prosecutors didn't ask Santos what he meant by ``overseeing,'' or why he and his colleagues did not try to prevent the attack. The 27 victims were hiding in the church. Three were Roman Catholic priests.

Muis is one of 18 officials charged over the violence. Ten of them have been cleared of all charges, prompting local and international human rights groups to describe the trials as a sham.

Two of the accused _ East Timor's former provincial governor and a notorious militia leader _ have been found guilty, sentenced to three and 10 years respectively. Both are East Timorese natives. Muis is Indonesian.

Legal observers say that the prosecutors appear not to understand the charges, and often fail to press the accused or witnesses on important points.

Monday's trial was the first to use video-conferencing technology to bring live testimony from witnesses in East Timor. At least one East Timorese witness has complained of intimidation when appearing in Jakarta.

Nearly 2,000 civilians were believed killed and 250,000 forced to flee their homes when Indonesian troops and their militia proxies launched a campaign of terror aimed at forcing people to vote for continued integration with Jakarta.

East Timor gained full independence in May, after a period of transitional rule by the United Nations following Indonesia's brutal 24-year occupation.


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