Subject: AP: Gen. Suratman Acquitted of Abuses; Damiri Again Skips His Trial

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

also: General on Aceh duty again skips his trial for rights abuses

Indonesia General Suratman Acquitted Of Abuses In E Timor

JAKARTA, May 22 (AP)--An Indonesian court Thursday acquitted a former Indonesian military commander in East Timor accused of not preventing massacres during the country's bloody struggle for independence in 1999.

Brig. Gen. Tono Suratman is the 12th defendant to be acquitted by the court, a ruling that is expected to intensify criticism of the ad-hoc tribunal that has already been called a sham by rights groups.

"Prosecutors did not prove that the defendant committed gross human rights violation in East Timor," said Judge Andi Samsan Nganro, who presided over the five-member panel. "Therefore the defendant has to be acquitted."

Suratman, one of 18 Indonesian military and government officials charged with crimes against humanity, said he was very relieved by the ruling.

Prosecutors said they planned to appeal the verdict.

Suratman was accused of failing to prevent the deaths of five refugees during an April 1999 attack on a church, and the killing of a dozen others two weeks later when pro-Jakarta militiamen stormed into the home of independence leader Manuel Carrascalao in Dili.

Suratman, the deputy spokesman for the military command in Jakarta, has denied the allegations. He told reporters Monday that he did everything he could to prevent the bloodshed.

Human rights activists have criticized the Indonesian trials as a joke, saying they were convened in order to defuse an international drive to set up a U.N. war crimes trial for East Timor akin to those for ex-Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

Prosecutors in the Timorese capital of Dili have launched their own war crimes trials, indicting more than 260 people including the former chief of the Indonesian military Gen. Wiranto. Thirty - mostly former militiamen - have been convicted of crimes ranging from murder to rape.

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Agence France Presse May 22, 2003

Indonesian general on Aceh duty again skips his trial for rights abuses

Jakarta,

An Indonesian general failed again to appear Thursday at his trial for rights abuses in East Timor in 1999 because he is helping supervise a major military assault in Aceh province.

It was the third time in succession that Major General Adam Damiri, who is accused of crimes against humanity in East Timor, had failed to appear before the human rights court in Jakarta.

Chief judge Marni Emmy Mustafa said the court would issue a ruling next month in the case, although it was not clear if this would amount to a verdict.

"To maintain the authority of the court, because the trial has already been postponed three times and enough time has been accorded to the defendant, on June 5 the council of judges will come out with a ruling," Mustafa said.

Damiri headed the military command overseeing East Timor in 1999 and is now posted to military headquarters.

His lawyer Hotma Sitompul told the court that Damiri cannot attend because of his duties in Aceh, where the government Monday launched a major assault on separatist rebels.

Damiri is one of two generals still awaiting verdicts in cases linked to the military-backed militia violence against independence supporters in East Timor in 1999.

The court was due to pass a verdict on Brigadier General Tono Suratman later on Thursday.

The rights court heard cases against 18 people. In widely criticised verdicts, it has acquitted 10 security force members and a civilian.

Five people have been ordered jailed but only one has received the minimum 10-year sentence mandated by law. All the five are free pending appeals.


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