Subject: AP: East Timor charges militia commanders with 1999 church massacre

East Timor charges militia commanders with 1999 church massacre

November 30, 2004 6:48am AP Online

DILI, East Timor_East Timor has indicted seven militia leaders for a church massacre and other killings during the country's bloody break from Indonesian rule in 1999, prosecutors said Tuesday.

The indictments, filed Monday, bring to 370 the number of Indonesian military and militia members charged with human rights violations over the violence that left 1,500 Timorese dead and the half-island in ruins.

Prosecutors charged the seven East Timorese militia commanders with crimes against humanity that include murder, torture, and forced deportations from March to September 1999.

Five of the seven were also accused of being behind the Suai Church massacre, in which Indonesian soldiers and militiamen attacked a church where refugees were hiding. The attack killed at least 31 people, and was among the worst that followed the independence referendum.

All seven defendants fled East Timor and are believed to be in Indonesia, prosecutors said.

Some 280 other suspects are also believed to be in Indonesia _ including failed Indonesian presidential candidate Gen. Wiranto, who was the country's military chief in 1999.

Indonesia is under no obligation to hand over the suspects, and has said it will not respond to earlier indictments. East Timor has not aggressively pushed to have the defendants turned over, saying good relations with its large neighbor is more important.

Courts in Jakarta were set up to prosecute top Indonesians responsible for the violence, but rights groups have widely criticized the trials as failures. All 16 police and military officers charged have been acquitted, while two ethnic East Timorese civilians were found guilty.

East Timor became independent in May 2002.

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