Subject: Indon Military Picks Indicted General As Spokesman

Indonesian Military Picks Indicted General As Spokesman

JAKARTA, April 26 (AP)--Indonesia's military named as its spokesman a general indicted by U.N. prosecutors for alleged war crimes during East Timor's break from Indonesia in 1999 - a posting likely to anger rights groups calling for those involved in the violence to be punished.

Suhartono Suratman was named chief spokesman in a ceremony at military headquarters on Tuesday, said Sri, a member of his staff who gave only one name.

His appointment to the high-profile job follows similar promotions for other generals accused in the rampage by Indonesian troops and their militias following a U.N. referendum ballot. Up to 2,000 people were killed and most of the territory destroyed during the violence.

U.N. prosecutors in East Timor indicted Suratman in 2003 for "crimes against humanity, murder, deportation and persecution," a spokesman for the country's Serious Crimes Unit said Tuesday.

Suratman, who was a local military commander at the time of the violence, is one of about 50 Indonesians indicted by prosecutors in East Timor. Jakarta refuses to hand over any suspects.

The 54-year-old soldier was also among 18 Indonesian military and government officials tried in 2003 at a special human rights court in Jakarta for his role in the violence. Twelve of them were acquitted, including Suratman, and five had their sentences overturned on appeal. One appeal is still pending.

Rights groups have criticized the military's decision to allow senior officers to remain on active duty if they refuse to cooperate with probes into the violence.

Appointments like Suratman's "send a message to others in the Indonesian military that they are above the law and that impunity is tolerated," said New York-based Human Rights Watch.


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