Subject: AP: Former Indonesian soldier jailed for 11 years in killing of Timorese indep

Former Indonesian soldier jailed for 11 years in killing of Timorese independence supporters

December 10, 2003 3:25am AP Online

A former Indonesian soldier was convicted Wednesday of crimes against humanity and sentenced to 11 years in prison, becoming the third member of the military jailed for violence connected to the country's bloody break from Indonesia in 1999.

Timorese prosecutors hailed the conviction of former Sergeant Marcelino Soares, saying it is the first time the Dili courts have found an Indonesian soldier guilty of crimes against humanity.

Such a charge is defined as widespread or systematic attacks against civilian population and bolsters arguments that the Indonesian military played a central role in the violence that left 1,500 dead in 1999 and much of the half-island in ruins.

"The conviction of Marcelino Soares will help victims, their families and communities reconcile with their losses in the knowledge that some measure of justice has been achieved," Prosecutor Per Halsbog said in a statement. "The decision is an important milestone in pursuit of justice."

Soares was found guilty of commanding a group of Indonesian soldiers who tortured and killed independent activist Luis Dias Soares on April 20, 1999 and tortured two other independent activists. He was also found guilty of overseeing the illegal detention and beating of three others in April 1999, including one who was held for four days.

In a separate trial Wednesday, a Dili court convicted militiaman Damiao da Costa Nunes of crimes against humanity and sentenced him to 10 1/2 years in jail. Nunes was found guilty of murdering two independent activists in 1999 and the forced disappearance of a third who later turned up dead.

Indonesian troops and their proxy militias kidnapped, tortured and murdered hundreds of Timorese fighters and civilians in 1999 before and after voters approved a U.N. sponsored independence referendum.

Trials of those accused of perpetrating the violence have been taking place in both Indonesia and East Timor, which separated from Indonesia in late 1999 and gained its nationhood last year.

But the Indonesian human rights court has been widely dismissed as a sham. It convicted just six of 18 accused Indonesian military and government officials. All six remain free pending their appeals.

The East Timorese Special Panels, created in 2001 with support of the United Nations, has charged 369 people and convicted 43. Earlier this week, it sentenced a pro-Jakarta militiamen to 10 1/2 years in jail for murdering two local U.N. staffers but acquitted a former Indonesian soldier of murder and attempted murder _ the first acquittal by the panel.

Of the 369 charged, 280 remain free in Indonesia, including at least 32 Indonesian commanders and the country's former military chief Gen. Wiranto. East Timorese courts do not have the power to convict people in absentia and Indonesia has said that it won't extradite any defendants to East Timor.

(gg/mc)


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