Subject: AFP/AP: Man cited in Timor church attack a soldier, district military chief says

Also: Indonesia Army Officer Witnessed E Timor Church Massacre

Agence France Presse

June 6, 2002 Thursday

Man cited in Timor church attack a soldier, district military chief says


A former Indonesian district army chief admitted on Thursday that a man alleged to have led a bloody attack on a church in East Timor in April 1999 was a soldier.

Lieutenant Colonel Asep Kuswandi, formerly head of the Liquica district military command, told a human rights court that Tome Diego was a member of the Liquica military.

Two survivors of the massacre in which 22 people died have testified that Diego was among the leaders of the attack which occurred in the wake of East Timor's vote for independence from Indonesia.

One witness, Amelio Baretto, said last week he saw and heard Diego, in civilian clothes, lead the raid yelling: "Attack."

Kuswandi, who is himself awaiting trial in the rights court, said he did not know whether Diego was among the attackers.

"I only ordered my men to go to the church when the incident broke out, to pacify the two camps and save the people at the church," Kuswandi said.

"My men were in the church only to pacify the two camps," he added.

Kuswandi also said he did not know whether soldiers in plainclothes were involved in the attack on the church as some witnesses have alleged.

He also denied that many of the attackers first gathered at the district military headquarters in Liquica, just 50 meters away from the church, before they launched the attack.

The officer was testifying in the trial of former East Timor police chief Brigadier General Timbul Silaen, who is accused of crimes against humanity by failing to halt the massacre of civilians.

Kuswandi described the church incident as "a clash and not an attack" saying that the violence was started by a shot from inside the church compound.

He said some 3,000 people had massed outside the church where some 1,500 people had taken refuge and the vastly outnumbered police and military were powerless to prevent the attack.

Silaen is one of seven people already on trial in separate cases. Eleven others -- including security and civilian officials and an East Timorese militia chief -- are also due to face the court over the campaign of violence and destruction by pro-Jakarta militias in the then-Indonesian province.

The militiamen, backed by some Indonesian soldiers, waged a campaign of intimidation before East Timor's August 1999 vote to separate from Indonesia and a violent scorched-earth revenge campaign afterwards.

The trials are being watched closely by the world for proof that Jakarta will punish those behind the violence.

They are focusing on five incidents in which militias attacked independence supporters seeking refuge in churches and homes in April and September 1999, killing more than 100.

International rights groups are sceptical that the long-delayed rights court will deliver justice.

Indonesia Army Officer Witnessed E Timor Church Massacre

JAKARTA, June 6 (AP)--An army officer who is among 25 officials charged in connection with violence in East Timor testified Thursday that he was at the scene of a church massacre, but refused to say what role his officers played in it.

Lt. Col. Asep Kuswani was testifying at the trial of former East Timor Police Chief Timbul Silaen, who is charged with crimes against humanity for allowing the killing of hundreds in East Timor before and after a United Nations-sponsored referendum in September 1999.

Silaen has been linked to massacres, including one at a church in Liquica, where Kuswani was the military commander. Kuswani's trial date has not yet been set.

Kuswani admitted he was there on April 6, 1999, when anti-independence militiamen attacked the church and killed more than 40 people. But he refused to answer repeated questions from prosecutors about his role or that of his soldiers during the attack.

He also said he never saw the attack coming, despite reports afterwards that militiamen had killed villagers and burned homes before heading to the church.

"The refugees flocked to the church's compound and I did not think that anything would happen," Kuswani said.

In a separate trial Thursday of former East Timor Gov. Abilio Soares, Guillermo Martins joined a chorus of Indonesians who have blamed the United Nations for the violence. Martins, a former East Timor district head, said "irregularities" leading up the referendum prompted residents to fight one another.

U.N. officials have told Jakarta that if those responsible for the bloodshed do not face justice in Indonesian courts, an international war crimes tribunal, akin to those for former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, could be held.

Rights activist say these trial are just for show, criticizing the prosecution for preparing shoddy indictments and failing to charge the worst offenders. They have also complained that the notoriously corrupt Indonesian court system is not up to the task of handing out justice in such a sensitive matter.

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