Subject: SMH: Lay Off Wiranto, Gusmao Tells Law Man

Sydney Morning Herald/The Age Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Lay Off Wiranto, Gusmao Tells Law Man

By Matthew Moore, Herald Correspondent in Jakarta

East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao says he has told his country's top law officer it is not in East Timor's interests to try to prosecute Indonesia's former military commander Wiranto for crimes against humanity.

Mr Gusmao said he raised the matter with the prosecutor-general, Longuinhos Monteiro, to make him aware of the damage that could result in East Timor's relations with Indonesia from an attempt to prosecute Wiranto, a candidate in the presidential election in Indonesia in July.

Mr Gusmao contacted Mr Monteiro to "remind the prosecutor-general of what is in the interests of the state".

His remarks appear to go some way to explaining Mr Monteiro's decision a fortnight ago to block attempts by United Nations-backed human rights lawyers working for him to prosecute Wiranto.

Mr Monteiro stunned his own staff members when he wrote to the Special Panel of the Dili Court, seeking to withdraw an indictment filed by his deputy prosecutor in February last year and used by the court on May 10 to issue Wiranto's arrest warrant.

The court rejected his request, but Mr Monteiro has since said he will not ask Interpol to issue an international warrant for Wiranto's arrest, a move that further undermines the pursuit of those responsible for the bloodshed in East Timor at the time of its independence vote in 1999.

In an interview with the Herald Mr Gusmao reiterated his view that good relations with Indonesia were vital for East Timor, especially in finalising the shared border and negotiating an agreement for people on both sides to cross it easily.

Mr Gusmao said it was time for the UN to put the money it uses to fund investigations and trials of suspected human rights offenders into projects to help East Timorese.

"For us, I would say I'd like to help out the judicial system, the local courts." He said people were spending eight or nine months in jail, awaiting hearings over minor thefts for which they were subsequently given a two-month sentence.

He questioned the point of issuing indictments and arrest warrants against suspected offenders living in Indonesia when Indonesia had refused to send them to East Timor to be prosecuted.

"I want to be realistic. If we issue here an indictment, can we go to Indonesia to catch anyone there? Very realistically, we can . . . sign [indictments] every day, every hour. We sign indictments and the world will continue to pay the people with big wages and we wait, and if they come across the border we can arrest them."

Mr Monteiro has been unavailable to the foreign media to explain his decision to abandon the pursuit of Wiranto.

As late as last month he was a strong advocate of attempts to prosecute a group of former and serving senior Indonesian military officers accused of responsibility for the bloodshed.


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