Subject: RA: Last Indonesian governor is first jailed over violence

Asia Pacific/Radio Australia

East Timor: Last Indonesian governor is first jailed over violence


The first person to be convicted of human rights abuses in the lead up to East Timor's independence referendum has begun his three year jail sentence. The former Indonesian appointed governor of East Timor, Abilio Soares, has been convicted of involvement in the bloody violence which claimed up to 14 hundred lives during the 1999 vote. Soares denies any wrongdoing, and claims he's been made a scapegoat for the Indonesian military officers who co-ordinated the violence.

Presenter/Interviewer: Marion MacGregor

Speakers: Jim Dunn, former Australian consul in East Timor; Rosentino Amado Hea, East Timor human rights lawyer; Ketut Murtika, Abilio Soares' prosecutor and the Indonesian Attorney General's director of human rights

MACGREGOR: Abilio Soares was taken to Jakarta's Cipinang prison on Saturday to begin a three year stint behind bars for crimes he committed in East Timor in 1999.

As he was taken to the jail from Kupang in Nusa Tenggara, the last Indonesian governor of East Timor was still claiming his innocence. He says he's a scapegoat and those who are truly responsible for what happened in the territory at that time are being let off the hook.

The violence before and after the August self-determination ballot left as many as two thousand people dead and much of East Timor destroyed by rampaging Indonesian troops and militias which they had armed and trained.

Eighteen people, mostly military and police officials, have been tried over the bloodshed. Six have been convicted and sentenced. But Abilio Soares, a civilian and an ethnic East Timorese, is the first to go to jail.

In East Timor, the news of his imprisonment has had a lukewarm reception. Human rights lawyer Rosentino Amado Hea.

HEA: People all know, East Timor people know also, he not have responsibility, strong responsibility to deal with the security situation at that moment. We doubt he is involved, he is a victim.

MACGREGOR: Many outside East Timor support Abilio Soares' claim that he's been unfairly targetted. Jim Dunn is a UN expert on crimes against humanity and former consul in East Timor when it was under Portuguese rule.

DUNN: Abilio Soares was only a small player. He didn't plan the campaign to set up the militia, to carry out violence and to sabotage the UN mission that was of course to be responsible for the plebiscite. He certainly is a scapegoat.

MACGREGOR: Of the military and police officers originally charged and brought to trial by the human rights court in Jakarta, twelve have been acquitted. Yet many of them, according to Jim Dunn, were clearly implicated in the violence.

DUNN: Colonel Sediono, who actually stood by gave orders outside Suai, when the massacre took place, and another TNI Lieutenant Colonel who was also responsible for what happened at Maliano. These have a lot more to answer for. I wouldn't say that Abilio Soares was not responsible for participating. Obviously he wanted the outcome, and the outcome was for East Timor to stay with Indonesia. But there are more serious commanders who are responsible, and I suppose ultimately one of them was General Wiranto himself.

MACGREGOR: Indonesia remains under intense pressure from human rights groups to bring these former generals to justice. Ketut Murtika, Abilio Soares' prosecutor and the Indonesian Attorney General's director of human rights says the process is not yet over, with several cases against men like the regional commander Adam Damiri and the former army chief Nur Muis as well as civilian, Eurico Guterres, pending in the Supreme Court.

But that still leaves the big fish like General Wiranto and the then chief of territorial affairs, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. They've still not been prosecuted in Indonesia, because Ketut Murtika says, not a single witness could be found to testify against them.

MURTIKA: When we investigated these defendants, the witnesses seemed to have their mouths locked. No one was willing to say who was behind the violence. They weren't prepared to go any further than the regional commander.

MACGREGOR: There are calls this week for prosecutors to use Soares' statement that he was not in charge of security affairs ahead of the self-determination vote to build a new case against the top brass. But Ketut Murtika says they'd need military officers to come forward with new evidence, a prospect that seems unlikely.

MURTIKA: If there's sufficient evidence from the regional commander and his subordinates pointing the finger at these people, suggesting they were involved as planners, then of course we we would want to look again at this matter.

MACGREGOR: But critics still maintain the Jakarta trials are a farce, and they say only a UN-sponsored international tribunal can deliver justice. Former consul Jim Dunn has recommended to the UN chief Kofi Annan that such a tribunal be set up. While Indonesia has strongly rejected what it says is an attack on its sovereignty, Jim Dunn remains hopeful.

DUNN: It's not only important for justice in East Timor, it's also very important for the Indonesian people, because they need to know what their military commanders got up to. And if they do find that out, surely they will take action to reform the military. And that action is absolutely necessary to bring about the reform that the Indonesian democracy movement wants to introduce.

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