Subject: E. Timorese Refugees Seal Off S. Sulawesi High Court

also: JP: East Timorese refugees seek justice

The Jakarta Post [web site] Wednesday, June 16, 2004

East Timorese Refugees Seal Off South Sulawesi High Court

MAKASSAR, South Sulawesi (JP): Hundreds of East Timorese refugees who hail from South Sulawesi sealed off the province' high court on Wednesday to vent their frustration over the court's verdict in an embezzlement case.

The refugees, who are from Pangkajene Islands regency, smashed three windows of the high court building and prevented court officials and employees from entering the building.

They have protesting at the court since Monday to draw attention to what they regard as an unjust verdict.

Last week, the South Sulawesi High Court found the director of the Pangkajene Islands Social Affairs Agency, Bisman, guilty of embezzling Rp 128 million (US$13,700) our of Rp 500 million intended for the refugees, and sent him to jail for 15 months.

The sentence was much more lenient that handed down in February by the Pangkajene Islands District Court, which sent Bisman to jail for 5 years, and ordered him to return the embezzled funds or face an additional one year in jail.

The district court also ordered Bisman to pay a fine of Rp 250 million, or face another six months in jail as well as the confiscation of his assets.

The refugees became violent after failing to meet Supreme Court chief Bagir Manan, who was rumored to be on a stopover at Makassar's Hasanuddin airport.

It turned out to be that Bagir had not actually made a stopover at the airport.

Meanwhile, South Sulawesi High Court Deputy President Dalil Achmad said it was impossible to vary the sentence unless the South Sulawesi Prosecutor's Office appealed to the Supreme Court. (Andi Hajramuni/nvn)


The Jakarta Post

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

East Timorese refugees seek justice

Andi Hajramurni and Suherdjoko, Makassar/Semarang

Dozens of East Timorese refugees have camped in front of the South Sulawesi High Court since Monday, demanding that it annul its verdict, which favors an alleged corruptor.

The high court recently annulled the Pangkep district court's February ruling that sentenced the head of the social office in Pangkep regency, Bisman, to five years in prison.

The district court had also fined him Rp 250 million.

The case was brought before the high court for review, Bisman's prison sentence was lowered to 15 months and the fine, lifted.

"Where is the justice? The defendant embezzled people's money but was only sentenced to 15 months in prison," said Abdul Hamid, the coordinator of the East Timorese refugees in Pangkep regency.

The refugees had complained of receiving less aid than the government had promised them, while others said they received nothing at all.

The refugees fled the newly established country after it separated from Indonesia in 1999.

Abdul explained there were 499 refugee families in Pangkep but only 170 families had received government aid. The 170 families received Rp 3.5 million each, less than had been promised.

The refugees, angered by the low payments, demanded an investigation of the disbursement process, which eventually led to the district court's verdict against Bisman.

Achmad, a high court official, told the refugees the high court could not alter its verdict, but if they were dissatisfied they could appeal to the Supreme Court.

In response, the protesters vowed on Tuesday they would stay at the high court until it changed its verdict.

Separately, a group of East Timorese refugees living in Central Java demanded on Tuesday the government pay more attention to the plight of refugees in the province.

Batista Sufakevi, the coordinator of the group, who claimed that he represented some 20,000 East Timorese refugees living in Central Java, said that the refugees deserved proper housing, education and soft loans to start businesses.

Batista said representatives of the group would meet with President Megawati next week.

He estimated that there were more than 200,000 East Timor refugees living in various parts of Indonesia, including in Bali, East Nusa Tenggara, Sulawesi and Central Java.

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