Subject: AFP: Timor truth commission seeks extension

Agence France Presse

May 15, 2007

Timor truth commission seeks extension

JAKARTA, May 15 2007

A commission set up to look into atrocities allegedly comitted during East Timor's independence vote is to ask for another year to question more witnesses, its co-chairman said Tuedsay.

The Commission of Truth and Friendship needs more time to obtain testimony from officials and witnesses to the violence that raged as Timorese voted for independence from Indonesia in 1999, said Benjamin Mangkoedilaga.

The commission, comprising five Indonesians and five East Timorese, was set up to determine the truth about the unrest.

It was supposed to wrap up its hearings last August before submitting its findings to both governments, but that deadline was extended last year.

"We will request both the Indonesian and East Timor presidents to extend the commission's mandate until July 2008," Mangkoedilaga said.

Mangkoedilaga, one of the Indonesian commissioners, told AFP that it still needed to quiz East Timor's outgoing president Xanana Gusmao, a former leader of the guerrilla struggle against Indonesian occupation.

"We plan to go to East Timor to hear testimony from Xanana Gusmao and other witnesses, such as the commander of Falintil," the military wing of the ruling Fretilin party.

Militia gangs -- which the United Nations says were recruited and directed by Indonesia's military -- went on an arson and killing spree before and after the East Timorese voted for independence in a UN-sponsored ballot.

They killed about 1,400 people and laid waste to much of the infrastructure in the half-island, a Portuguese colony before Indonesia invaded in 1975.

Earlier this month the panel took evidence from former Indonesian military chief General Wiranto, who denied his forces were to blame for any atrocities during the vote.

The joint commission was set up in 2005 but is not a judicial body. Instead it is aimed at reconciliation along the lines of South Africa's post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

An Indonesian rights court set up to put military officers and officials on trial over atrocities was widely condemned as a sham for failing to jail any Indonesians.

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