Subject: AFP: Judge denies East Timor prosecutor's motion to review Wiranto charges

May 18, 2004

Judge denies East Timor prosecutor's motion to review Wiranto charges

DILI (AFP): A UN-backed judge in East Timor has rejected a legal bid by the country's top prosecutor to review a crimes against humanity indictment filed against Indonesian presidential candidate Wiranto.

In a ruling received Tuesday, Judge Phillip Rapoza rejected the motion filed May 11 by East Timor's prosecutor general, Longuinhos Monteiro, the day after Rapoza issued an arrest warrant for Wiranto, Indonesia's former army commander.

Wiranto was Jakarta's military chief when army-backed militiamen waged a murderous campaign in 1999 against independence supporters in East Timor, then an Indonesian province.

The arrest warrant says Wiranto bears command responsibility for murder and other crimes committed by Indonesian forces under his command in East Timor.

Monteiro, an East Timorese government official who heads a staff of UN-appointed prosecutors, filed his motion to amend the indictment after telling reporters he regretted Rapoza's warrant.

The prosecutor also implied his subordinates had acted without authorization.

In the motion, Monteiro asked for permission to "review the filed indictment and file an amended indictment after removing the defects when found," Rapoza said.

The judge, an American of Portuguese descent, said Monteiro's motion merely alluded to a "feeling that there might be some defects" in the filed indictment.

The Indonesian government says it does not recognize the warrant. East Timor's president Xanana Gusmao believes good relations with Jakarta should take priority over court action but says he cannot interfere in legal proceedings.

Gusmao has said he could work with Wiranto if he won the July 5 election for his Golkar party, which backed the former dictator Soeharto.

Monteiro has denied he is under political pressure to revise the indictment.

Wiranto has dismissed the warrant as "character assassination" and hinted that his political rivals were behind it.

The former general has said he did his best to minimize the bloodshed in East Timor, which he blamed on the territory's opponents and supporters of independence.

At least 1,400 people were murdered before and after East Timorese voted in August 1999 for independence. About 200,000 people were deported to Indonesian West Timor and about 70 percent of all buildings in the territory were destroyed.

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