Subject: AFP: Indonesia rights commissioner urges prosecutors to appeal Timor verdicts

Indonesia rights commissioner urges prosecutors to appeal Timor verdicts

JAKARTA, May 7 (AFP) - A member of Indonesia's human rights commission (Komnas Ham) urged prosecutors Monday to appeal against the light sentences handed down to six East Timorese over the slaughter of three UN aid workers last year.

"That sentence is controversial...even simply aiding a murder can incur between 10 to 20 years," Komnas Ham member Marbun (Eds: one name) said in an interview with the private El Shinta radio station.

Marbun said that the sentences -- between 10 and 20 months -- were contemptuous of the law, and said they would draw the wrath of the international human rights community and the United Nations.

They would also influence donors and investors needed by the country.

The prosecutors, Marbun said, should appeal.

"If they fail in the appeal, they can still go to the Supreme Court so that a more appropriate sentence is obtained, so that we do not show a contempt of the law as we are doing now," Marbun said.

A Jakarta court Friday handed the sentences down to the six East Timorese for their part in the violence which led to three members of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) being hacked to death in West Timor.

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

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 the defendants could not be charged with manslaughter.

The three workers -- an American, a Croatian and an Ethiopian -- died in the grisly attack on their office in the West Timor border town of Atambua last September.

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.

Hundreds of 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.

UN Secretary-General 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" by the lenient sentences, 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.

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

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