Subject: East Timorese independence leader savages Indonesian justice

Agence France Presse May 17, 2001

East Timorese independence leader savages Indonesian justice


East Timorese independence leader Jose Ramos Horta on Wednesday savaged Indonesia's justice system, branding its failure to account for atrocities in the territory as an outrage.

Nobel laureate Ramos Horta said he and fellow East Timorese leader and former guerrilla chief Xanana Gusmao had discussed the failure to pursue perpetrators of atrocities at a meeting with US Secretary of State Colin Powell.

"We have raised our profound frustration and unhappiness at the way the Indonesian legal system is handling this situation," Ramos Horta told reporters.

He registered special disappointment at lean sentences handed down to six East Timorese who were given between 10 and 20 months in jail for the murders of three members of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' operation (UNHCR) in West Timor.

"We are outraged. It is an affront to all of us. It discredits completely the Indonesian legal system," he said.

The United States has also protested the length of the jail terms.

Ramos Horta said the sentences discredited Indonesia's claim that it, and not an outside body, should examine atrocities in East Timor, which was engulfed by militia violence after voting for independence from Indonesia in August 1999.

Despite his anger over the Indonesian legal system, Ramos Horta, who campaigned for independence in exile for nearly 30 years, said he had been encouraged by Powell's support for East Timor's moves toward independence.

"We came out of the meeting really very reassured," he said, adding that Powell had expressed strong support for the territory's independence and sovereignty.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Powell offered to help "in every way we could" to help East Timor develop its legal system, economy and society.

East Timor's first democratic elections since the independence vote are due later this year, to be supervised by the United Nations.

The polls will produce a parliamentary body which will draft a constitution before proclaiming formal independence.

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