Subject: TNI denies role in Dutch journalist's murder

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

Jakarta Post December 31, 1999

TNI denies role in Dutch journalist's murder

JAKARTA (JP): A former battalion commander in East Timor admitted on Thursday that his troops ambushed two foreign journalists in the territory's capital of Dili on Sept. 21.

However, Maj. Jacob Joko Sarosa, who commanded battalion 745 Sampada Yudha Bakti, denied involvement in the murder of Dutch journalist Sannder Thoenes, who was slain two kilometers from where his troops concurrently stopped British reporter Jon Swain and American photographer Chip Hires.

"My men seized two cameras and some 50 rolls of film from those journalists and I was sentenced to seven days' imprisonment for failing to control my subordinates," Jacob said after being questioned by the Commission of Inquiry into Human Rights Violations (KPP HAM) in East Timor. He said his soldiers were "emotional and frustrated with white-skinned people" due to their belief there were unfair practices during the UN- administered ballot, which resulted in the rejection of an autonomy proposal within Indonesia.

"Tension was also high as my men had already been intercepted many times by Falintil members on their way from Los Palos, so the battalion stopped a taxi to check whether there were any proindependence supporters in it. But they turned out to be journalists."

Jacob said Thoenes, the Jakarta correspondent for London's Financial Times, was murdered when the battalion was passing the East Dili area of Becora on its way from Los Palos to the East Nusa Tenggara capital of Kupang.

He noted that "apart from battalion 745, at that time a number of other TNI units were still in Becora".

He did not elaborate.

Thousands of the Indonesian Military (TNI) personnel were pulled from East Timor and dispatched to neighboring East Nusa Tenggara when the International Force for East Timor (Interfet) began to trickle into the territory in September.

Thoenes was killed one day after the arrival of the multinational troops and less than two hours after he arrived in the province.

His body was found in Becora on Sept. 22 with multiple wounds and a severed ear.

Eyewitnesses said Thoenes was killed after he tried to flee a roadblock manned by a number of armed civilians in the area. Swain and Hires escaped into bushes, made their way to a nearby village and phoned their office in London, who conveyed contacted Interfet in Dili.

A rescue operation was mounted involving a light armored vehicle, 100 troops and a number of Black Hawk helicopters.

KPP HAM in its midterm report claimed that, based on a preliminary investigation and witness accounts, TNI was directly or indirectly involved in the violence perpetrated by militias.

Former TNI chief Gen. Wiranto and a number of army generals have denied the allegations, saying the violence was an emotional outburst which was neither premeditated nor controllable.

Other Army officers questioned included Maj. Gen. Zacky Anwar Makarim, Maj. Gen. Kiki Syahnakri and former East Timor military commander Col. M. Noer Muis.

KPP HAM members said former foreign affairs minister Ali Alatas was scheduled to be questioned next week.(byg)

TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign 111 Northwood Road, Thornton Heath, Surrey CR7 8HW, UK Phone: 0181 771-2904 Fax: 0181 653-0322 email: Internet: Campaigning to expose human rights violations in Indonesia, East Timor, West Papua and Aceh

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