Subject: AFP: East Timor judge rejects bid for court hearing on Wiranto

see also: Decision on Wiranto's Public Hearing From Special Panel (.pdf)

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

Agence France Presse

February 19, 2004

East Timor judge rejects bid for court hearing on Indonesian general

DILI, A judge in East Timor has refused a request for a public hearing into alleged war crimes by a former Indonesian general who is now seeking his country's presidency.

United Nations-funded prosecutors had asked Judge Phillip Rapoza to hear their application for an arrest warrant for Wiranto, Indonesia's military chief during East Timor's bloody breakaway from Jakarta in 1999.

But Rapoza, in a ruling delivered Wednesday and made public Thursday, said the proposed hearing was not provided for under local and international law and would be "a trial in all but name."

Prosecutors indicted Wiranto for crimes against humanity almost one year ago, along with six other senior Indonesian officers and the territory's then-governor.

Only one arrest warrant has so far been granted and last month top prosecutor Longuinhos Monteiro accused judges of foot-dragging.

An estimated 1,000 people died in a savage intimidation campaign waged by Indonesian military-backed local militias when East Timorese voted for independence in August 1999.

The East Timor court, known as the Special Panel for Serious Crimes, is the only tribunal of its kind.

Indonesia set up its own special court but rights groups described it as largely a sham. Jakarta refuses to hand over anyone who has been indicted in East Timor.

Prosecutor Monteiro's deputy Nicholas Koumjian, like Rapoza a US citizen, asked the judge on January 28 for a public hearing on the arrest warrant.

Koumjian said it was the most transparent way to deal with an issue of worldwide interest and could be the only chance for victims to explain how they suffered.

Wiranto, who is planning to run in Indonesia's first direct presidential elections in July, could send a lawyer or testify by video-link if he feared being arrested, he said.

Prosecutors accuse the general of failing to punish or prevent crimes committed by those under his control. He says he did his best to prevent bloodshed.

However Rapoza said establishing a criminal procedure for Wiranto alone "violates basic principles of the rule of law."

The judge gave Koumjian 30 days to submit any extra evidence.

Any warrant, if forwarded to Interpol, would have made the general liable to arrest if he travelled overseas.

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