Subject: UN Condemns Downgrade Of Charges In West Timor Killings

Associated Press March 27, 2001

UN Condemns Downgrade Of Charges In West Timor Killings

DILI, East Timor (AP)--U.N. prosecutors in East Timor condemned on Tuesday the downgrading of charges against six people accused of killing international aid workers in West Timor in September.

On Friday, Indonesian prosecutors at the trial of the defendants recommended they be charged with "mob violence resulting in death" rather than manslaughter. They asked for sentences ranging between two and three years in prison.

Under Indonesian law, manslaughter carries a 20-year jail term.

"It seems the sentencing decision doesn't reflect the severity of the offense in terms of the deliberate nature of the attack," U.N. Chief Prosecutor Mohamed Othman said in Dili, the capital of East Timor.

"The suspects should be charged for manslaughter," he said.

The six men are accused of killing the three UNHCR workers in the West Timorese border town of Atambua on Sept. 6.

The defendants are pro-Jakarta militiamen, who, along with thousands of others, moved from neighboring East Timor after it voted overwhelmingly to break free from Indonesian rule in 1999.

Immediately after the killings of aid workers from the U.S., Croatia and Ethiopia, the U.N. issued a resolution demanding that Indonesia disarm and disband the militia gangs and bring those responsible for the slayings to justice.

Lawyers for the men argued Tuesday that the recommended sentences were fair because the murders weren't premeditated.

"We determined during the court hearing that our clients killed those three U.N. workers without having any plan to do so beforehand. They did it spontaneously," said Suhardi Somomoeljono. "That is why prosecutors' demands were lighter than the maximum sentences."

So far, Indonesian authorities haven't charged anybody for the violence that erupted in East Timor after the U.N.-supervised independence ballot on Aug. 30, 1999.

After the vote, pro-Jakarta militias backed by Indonesia's military destroyed much of the territory, killed hundreds of people and forced thousands of others to flee to West Timor.

Last year, Indonesia's Attorney General Marzuki Darusman said that the trials of 21 soldiers, police and militia members would start in January.

One of the suspects, Major General Adam Damiri - who was regional military commander in East Timor at the time of the violence - is now responsible for deploying thousands of troops in a planned operation to crush separatist rebels in western Aceh province, a human rights organization said.

The London-based group, Tapol, said the move illustrated that the military were showing contempt for the investigations and that trials of the army officers responsible were unlikely to happen.

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