Subject: Indonesia Ex-Army Chief In E Timor On Trial For Rts Abuse

Indonesia Ex-Army Chief In E Timor On Trial For Rts Abuse

JAKARTA, July 16 (AP)--The former commander of Indonesian troops in East Timor went on trial Tuesday on charges of crimes against humanity for allegedly allowing his troops to commit atrocities in the former province.

"I am not a human rights abuser," declared Brig. Gen. Tono Suratman - now Indonesia's deputy military spokesman - moments before his trial began.

Suratman is the second-highest ranking Indonesian commander to go on trial and one of 18 military and government officials indicted for the violence that left hundreds dead and destroyed much of the half-island territory. Most of the destruction occurred after a United Nations-sponsored independence referendum in August 1999.

Critics have dismissed the trials as a farce, saying their purpose is to deflect criticism and prevent the U.N. from creating an international war crimes tribunal for East Timor similar to those for ex-Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

Suratman is accused of allowing his subordinates to join pro-Jakarta militiamen in three separate attacks in East Timor that left 34 pro-independence supporters dead.

Suratman said nothing in court but he earlier told reporters he had done nothing wrong.

"I maintained the security and order before and after the (referendum)," he said. "During the time I was there, not a single foreign observer was hurt."

Meanwhile, an intelligence officer who served under Suratman also went on trial in a separate courtroom.

According to the indictment, Col. Yayat Sudradjat allegedly allowed subordinates to join militiamen in attacking a church full of pro-independence supporters.


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