Subject: Timor acquittals likely to anger rights groups

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

East Timor acquittals likely to anger rights groups

By Joanne Collins

JAKARTA, Nov 29 (Reuters) - Indonesia's human rights court on Friday acquitted four former security officers of crimes against humanity in East Timor, verdicts which are likely to anger rights groups which have branded the trials a whitewash.

Only two civilians have so far been found guilty over the violence in East Timor before and after the independence vote to break from Indonesian rule in August 1999 when the United Nations estimates more than 1,000 people were killed.

Ten people who have been acquitted are all former or serving military and police officials.

Three of the defendants acquitted on Friday were charged in connection with a bloody attack on a Catholic priest's house in the district of Liquica where dozens of people were hacked to death with machetes or shot.

After a three-hour hearing, the central Jakarta court acquitted former district military commander Lieutenant-Colonel Asep Kuswani, former district police chief Lt-Col Adios Salova and district military head Leonita Martins.

"We acquit the three defendants...(they are) not found guilty of gross violation charges and crimes against humanity over murder and an attack on the house of Father Rafael in April 1999," chief judge Tjitjut Setyarso told the court.

One ex-East Timor general sitting in the packed courtroom with scores of other military officials sprang to his feet after the verdict was read out and hugged one of the defendants.

Prosecutors said they had not decided whether to appeal.

The same court earlier on Friday acquitted Lieutenant-Colonel Endar Priyanto, former army commander for the East Timor capital Dili, in connection with an attack on the house of a prominent East Timorese pro-independence figure in April 1999.

The house, which was sheltering more than 100 Timorese, was attacked by a mob and at least a dozen people were killed.

Prosecutors, who had pressed for the minimum 10-year jail term for Priyanto, said they planned to appeal. He faced a maximum penalty of death.

Neither the overall commander at the time of the bloodshed, General Wiranto, and the head of military intelligence during the vote, Zacky Anwar Makarim, have been put on trial. Both have denied any wrongdoing.

Most of the killings took place after the independence ballot, in which nearly 80 percent of voters chose to break from 24 years of harsh rule by Jakarta.

East Timor, a former Portuguese colony, was declared fully independent on May 20 this year when the United Nations handed over power to a government led by former anti-Indonesian guerrilla leader Xanana Gusmao.

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