Subject: Militiamen Accused of Murdering UN Workers Fail To Appear In Court

Associated Press January 16, 2001

Accused Militiamen Fail To Appear In Jakarta Court

JAKARTA (AP)--Four militiamen accused of murdering U.N. aid workers last September failed to turn up at court Tuesday claiming illness. Their lawyers argued that the trial should be moved to West Timor.

The killings of the three aid workers by a pro-Indonesian militia mob on Sept. 6 in the border town of Atambua was the worst attack ever against the world body's civilian staff. The murders led to the evacuation of all aid workers from the territory.

In the North Jakarta District Court, lawyers for four of the six militiamen accused of murdering the aid workers from Ethiopia, Croatia and the U.S., produced letters claiming they were too sick to attend the trial.

Before the trial opened, defense lawyer Suhardi Sumomulyono said prosecutors had no right to try his clients in the capital. He said the trial should be conducted in Atambua where the killings took place.

Court Judge Anak Jde Dalem adjourned the trial until next Tuesday and ordered defense lawyers to produce their clients when it resumes.

Meanwhile, visiting U.N. General Assembly President Harri Holkeri said the United Nations will consider later this month whether to send a security-evaluation team to West Timor to determine if it is safe for aid workers to return. The U.N. Security Council is scheduled to meet on Jan. 26 to decide whether to dispatch the team.

Indonesia's Foreign Minister Alwi Shihab said it was now safe for the aid workers to return and that the government hoped the security team would visit West Timor before the end of the month.

He said the government wanted to resolve the refugee problem as soon as possible.

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