Subject: Minimum jail term sought for Abilio

The Jakarta Post 
July 12, 2002

Minimum jail term sought for Abilio

Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Ad hoc Human Rights Tribunal prosecutors demanded on Thursday the minimum sentence of 10-and-a-half years jail for former East Timor governor Abilio Soares who is charged with failing to prevent violence surrounding the independence vote in Indonesia's former territory in 1999.

Abilio is the first of 18 defendants to hear the prosecutors' sentence demands for alleged crimes against humanity. The court will bring down its verdict after hearing Abilio's defense statement on July 18.

Gross human rights violations carry a maximum penalty of death.

Prosecutor I Ketut Murtika wrapped up the trial which he said had convincingly proved its case against Abilio.

The defendant is accused of letting his subordinates, including two regents and the administration-funded pro-Jakarta voluntary militia (Pamswakarsa), commit murder and assault as part of widespread and systematic violence against civilians.

The pro-Indonesian integration militia went on a rampage against the rival pro-independence camp before and after the UN-administered vote for independence. The UN estimates at least 1,000 East Timorese were killed during the violence.

Prosecutors said they demanded a slightly heavier sentence than the minimum 10 years in jail, due to Abilio's dedication as a public servant in East Timor for 23 years, his manners during the trial and the fact that he had never been imprisoned before.

"As the incriminating factors, the defendant had caused public unrest, committed gross human rights violations and he showed no remorse during the trial," Murtika's colleague Harry Ismi said.

Defense lawyer Lucas told reporters after the hearing that none of the witnesses can directly link Abilio to the murders. He said the defendant was an "East Timorese hero, who should be exonerated of all charges".

Indonesia has come under international pressure to address past human rights abuses involving the military.

Human rights activists and observers have expressed doubt that the ongoing rights tribunal will be more than just a masquerade to avoid further embargoes on military supplies and equipments.

In a separate hearing of former East Timor police chief Brig. Gen. Timbul Silaen, two top policymakers from East Timor testified that Jakarta was responsible for security in the former Indonesian province as stated in the tripartite agreements with the UN and Portugal on the preparations of the Aug. 30 popular ballot.

Asked whether the government had given appropriate response to the UN decision to expedite the announcement of the ballot result from Sept. 7 to Sept. 4, former coordinating minister for political and security affairs Gen. (ret) Feisal Tanjung testified that no contact had been made with East Timor authorities.

Another witness, former foreign minister Ali Alatas, told the court that the then president B.J. Habibie had offered a "no" option for the East Timorese, besides the special autonomy status in the former province because the East Timor issue had hampered the country's diplomatic efforts.

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