Subject:JP: Light sentence proposed for defendants in Suai massacre

july 17, 2002

light sentence proposed for defendants in suai massacre

tertiani zb simanjuntak, the jakarta post, jakarta

unable to secure all indictments against four military officers and one police officer held responsible for the massacre in the east timor town of suai in 1999, ad hoc prosecutors demanded on tuesday the court hand down the minimum sentence of ten years imprisonment.

the defendants are the next to face their fate after prosecutors requested a 10-and-a-half-year prison term for former east timor governor abilio soares, for his failure to prevent the mass killing.

during the hearing presided by judge cicut sutiarso, the ad hoc prosecutors proposed 10 years imprisonment each for former covalima regent col. herman sedyono, former suai military command chief col. sugito, and the military command's chief of staff capt. achmad syamsudin.

a 10-year-and-three-month prison sentence was requested for former suai police precinct chief adj. sr. comr. gatot subiaktoro, while sugito's predecessor col. liliek koeshadianto is facing a sentence demand of 10-and-a-half years imprisonment.

reading the 167-page indictment, prosecutors told the court that the trial, which has been going on for four months, failed to prove the prime charge that the five jointly initiated the attack on east timor's pro-independence civilians who took refuges in a church, in which at least 26 were killed.

"(however) the secondary charge against the defendants for allowing crimes against humanity by neglecting their authority to avoid the attack are convincingly proven during the trial," prosecutor darmono said.

defendants liliek and gatot received higher sentence demands in comparison with other codefendants because, according to the prosecutors, they were entrusted with direct responsibility for security affairs in suai, especially after the aug. 30, 1999, independence ballot.

initially, the prosecutors revealed that 27 people were killed, including three roman catholic priests. but after the three mass graves were excavated in west timor only 26 corpses were exhumed.

the prosecutors considered mitigating factors that lightened the sentences -- which could lead to the death penalty, such as the defendants' dedication to the state for which they have received medals, their responsibility to their family, their politeness, and the fact that they have never been sentenced for any crimes.

defense lawyer erman umar said that the demands for light sentences merely showed that the prosecutors were not convinced about their charges.

the defendants were given until july 23 to prepare their plea.

in separate courtrooms, former east timor military command chief brig. gen. tono suratman, now deputy spokesman for the indonesian military (tni), and former chief of tribuana military intelligence unit col. yayat sudradjat stood trial.

the two were charged with failing to use their authority to prevent pro-jakarta militiamen from attacking pro-independence rivals and their houses.

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