Subject: Indonesian prosecutors consider appealing UN murder verdicts

also: Jakarta not totally satisfied with Timor verdicts

Indonesian prosecutors consider appealing UN murder verdicts

JAKARTA, May 5 (AFP) - Indonesia's top prosecutor said on Saturday his office was considering appealing the light sentences handed down to six East Timorese for the murders of three UN aid workers last year, which drew outrage from the United Nations.

"We are considering our next steps. We still want the verdicts to be the same as we have demanded," Attorney General Marzuki Darusman said after a cabinet meeting.

Prosecutors had sought a three-year jail term for each of the six defendants.

But a Jakarta court Friday sentenced the six to between 20 and 10 months in jail for their part in the violence which led to three members of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) being hacked to death in West Timor.

The judge in the trial, Anak Agung Gde Dalem, said that although some of the defendants had admitted taking part in hacking the victims to death before the bodies were burned, the three UN workers had died in a "mob attack," and therefore could not be charged with manslaughter.

"The attack was carried out not only by them but by a mob which makes it difficult to determine the perpetrators of the deaths," he said, explaining the reduction of the charges to "conspiracy to foment violence."

"The result of the autopsy also showed that the victims' bodies were badly damaged, making it difficult to identify who committed the manslaughter," the judge said.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the UNHCR, the United States, the Croatian government and the United Nations Transitional Authority in East Timor (UNTAET) have all expressed shock at the verdicts.

The three workers -- an American, a Croatian and an Ethiopian -- were hacked and bludgeoned to death and their bodies burned in their office in the West Timor border town of Atambua last September.

UN and other aid workers who were assisting tens of thousands of East Timorese refugees in West Timor were evacuated following the incident, and have yet to return.

Kofi Annan on Friday said the ruling appeared to be "incommensurate with what is known to have been deliberate and brutal killings."

The United States said it was "extremely disappointed" with the lenient sentences. One of the UN workers murdered was American, while the UNHCR called the sentences a "mockery" of the judicial process.

The verdicts come amid growing doubts among observers about Indonesia's commitment to prosecuting the perpetrators of violence surrounding East Timor's August 1999 vote for independence from Jakarta.

Indonesia has promised to carry out its own prosecutions to avoid handing the accused over to an international war crimes tribunal.

Jakarta not totally satisfied with Timor verdicts

JAKARTA, May 5 (Reuters) - Indonesia's Attorney-General said on Saturday his office wanted relatively heavier sentences imposed on six men over the slaying of three U.N. aid workers in West Timor, adding no decision had been made to lodge an appeal.

Asked by reporters if Indonesia's image had been blackened by the verdicts on Friday, which triggered a storm of international outrage for being too lenient, Marzuki Darusman said: "That is relative. What is important is that the law is carried out."

An Indonesian court jailed the six for up to 20 months over the killings, relatively light sentences that have thrust an uncomfortable Jakarta back into the spotlight over its faltering efforts to account for bloody violence in East and West Timor.

The three foreign workers with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) were stabbed and their bodies dragged into the street and burned after a mob attacked their office in the West Timor border town of Atambua last September.

"Indeed, the result is not far from the prosecutor's demands. but we still want what we demanded," Darusman said.

"We are still studying whether we are going to appeal," he adding, without making any more detailed comments.

Officials said prosecutors had demanded sentences ranging around three years, terms that almost certainly would still have outraged the United Nations and foreign governments.

According to the original charges, all six had faced up to 34 years in prison over the slayings of the three U.N. workers -- an American, a Croat and an Ethiopian.

The North Jakarta Court said when sentencing three of the men that it was difficult to link the deaths of the U.N. staffers to the defendants "because the action was perpetrated by a mob."

The six men, all East Timorese who consider themselves Indonesian, received sentences ranging from 10 to 20 months.

They were part of a rampaging mob of pro-Jakarta Timorese militiamen opposed to East Timor's overwhelming decision in 1999 to break from Indonesian rule during a U.N.-organised ballot.


Local media on Saturday quoted one of the convicted men as expressing no regrets.

"I proudly accept the sentence because I did what I had to do to defend the country's red and white flag," said Julius Naisama, referring to the Indonesian national flag.

In a statement the UNHCR said: "The sentences make a mockery of the international community's insistence that justice be done in this horrific case."

In New York, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he was shocked at the light sentences and called the ruling an unacceptable response to a "despicable act."

Indonesia has managed to routinely ignite international fury over East Timor from when it invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975 until its catastrophic withdrawal in 1999 and subsequent inability to deal with pro-Jakarta Timorese militias now operating in West Timor.

Diplomats said the relatively light sentences were bound to rekindle wider international fury over the incident, one of the bloodiest ever attacks on United Nations civilian personnel.

Indonesia came under intense pressure to bring those involved to court after the slayings, and was told desperately needed aid could be at risk if it failed to do so.

The sentences of the six men will be cut by the amount of time they have served in detention since October.

More than 100,000 East Timorese refugees live in mostly squalid conditions in West Timor where they were herded by the Indonesian military-backed militia groups. The militias laid waste to East Timor after the 1999 independence vote.

East Timor is now under U.N. administration.

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