Subject: AFP: Wiranto Testifies Over Timor Atrocities

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

Agence France Presse

February 13, 2003

Former Indonesian military chief testifies over Timor atrocities

JAKARTA - Former Indonesian military chief General Wiranto on Thursday defended his record over East Timor's bloody 1999 breakaway from Jakarta, saying he had helped prevent a civil war there.

Wiranto, who according to rights groups should himself be in the dock, was testifying for the defence at Indonesia's human right court in the trial of Brigadier General Tono Suratman.

Suratman is accused of crimes against humanity by failing to prevent two massacres in April 1999.

Wiranto, questioned by judges about what he himself did to forestall violence, said he organised a reconciliation meeting between supporters and opponents of independence on April 21.

He described the violence that month as "a risk of the policy taken by former President Habibie," who authorised a United Nations-organised independence referendum held in August 1999.

Wiranto said he had taken all necessary steps to prevent violence. "If we had not taken preventive measures I'm sure there would have been a civil war," he said.

Then-president Abdurrahman Wahid sacked Wiranto as top security minister in February 2000 when a national human rights commission inquiry found him responsible for failing to ensure security surrounding the referendum.

Army-backed local pro-Jakarta militiamen waged a campaign of intimidation before East Timor's vote to separate from Indonesia and a scorched-earth revenge campaign afterwards.

At least 1,000 people are estimated to have died that year and whole towns were burnt to the ground.

Suratman, a former military commander of East Timor, is accused of failing to prevent an attack on the home of pro-independence leader Manuel Viegas Carrascalao in which at least 12 people including Carrascalao's son were killed on April 17.

He is also accused of failing to prevent an attack at Liquica church on April 6 in which at least 20 died.

Carrascalao testified last August that Suratman had laughed off his plea for protection after the attack on his house.

Wiranto's testimony was consistent with the official Indonesian version of the bloodshed -- that police and troops struggled to keep the peace between rival armed factions.

Rights groups say senior Indonesian security officials armed and organised the militias in their attacks on independence supporters.

The rights court was set up to deflect pressure for an international war crimes tribunal.

It has convicted two officers, East Timor's former civilian governor and a militia leader, but has acquitted 10 other security force members and a civilian. Three senior army officers including Suratman are awaiting judgment.

International rights groups have strongly criticised the previous acquittals and described the court as a sham.

vt/sm/rcw


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