Subject: Witnesses Fail To Link Accused To Violence In E. Timor

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

Witnesses Fail To Link Accused To Violence In East Timor

JAKARTA, June 11 (AP)--Prosecutors on Tuesday struggled to link five former officers in Indonesian-occupied East Timor with violence there in 1999 that left hundreds dead and the territory in ruins.

Two Indonesian soldiers and two civilians testified for the prosecution that they were at the Ave Maria Catholic Church in Suai, on Sept. 6, 1999, when 27 pro-independence supporters were killed.

But despite repeated questioning from prosecutors, the witnesses refused to say what, if any role, the five defendants played in the killings.

"I was in front of the church when anti-independence supporters (attacked) it," Army Sgt. Rudolpo Vikusculus told the court. "But I did not know exactly what happened inside there."

East Timor became the world's newest nation when it declared its independence on May 20. But old ghosts haunt the new county as it struggles to come to terms with atrocities committed during its long struggle for nationhood.

The five army and police officers are charged with crimes against humanity. They are accused of allowing the church massacre and will face the death penalty if convicted.

They are among 25 Indonesian officials - including three army generals - indicted for violence in East Timor ahead of, and after, a U.N.-sponsored ballot in 1999 in which residents overwhelmingly voted for independence from Indonesia.

Prosecutors and rights activists say the militia gangs were established and trained by Indonesian soldiers.

Jakarta has been under intense pressure to punish those responsible for the rampage in East Timor. Critics are skeptical, however, that any of the defendants will see justice in Indonesian courts.

Their fears have been bolstered by a three-month trial marked by numerous prosecutorial missteps.

Military witnesses have used the forum to blame the violence on the United Nations or, as they did Tuesday, deny they knew who was behind it. Several other East Timorese witnesses have refused to testify, saying they are too scared to travel to Indonesia.

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