Subject: JP: 'Soldiers joined in attacks on E. Timorese refugees'

The Jakarta Post June 26, 2002

'Soldiers joined in attacks on refugees'

Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Prosecutors of the ad hoc Human Rights Tribunal said on Tuesday that military personnel wearing militia uniforms participated in a bloody attack on civilians taking refuge at the residence of East Timor Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo on Sept. 6, 1999.

In the first session of the trial of former Dili military commander Lt. Col. Soedjarwo, the prosecutors charged the defendant with crimes against humanity for failing to prevent armed militiamen from attacking the refugees.

Soedjarwo could be sentenced to a minimum of 10 years in prison if found guilty.

Prosecutor Hotman Ambarita said that on Sept. 6, 1999, armed pro-Jakarta militiamen and soldiers wearing militia uniforms came to Belo's residence and forced the refugees to leave.

"The refugees were led to Mother Mary Park in front of the bishop's residence ... there was a yell 'attack' and the prointegration group opened fire on the refugees," Hotman said.

According to Bishop Belo's statement, two civilians were killed in the attack, including a 10-year-old girl, Lili, who was shot in the left eye.

There was no clear, independent report on the real number of fatalities.

The incident took place just two days after the result of the Aug. 30 United Nations-brokered ballot was announced.

Soedjarwo was also accused of being responsible for the attack on the Dili diocesan building, which was sheltering at least 5,000 refugees, on Sept. 5. The building was completely burned down, with at least 25 people reportedly killed.

Presiding Judge Andi Samsan Nganro adjourned the hearing until July 1 to hear the defense statement.

Meanwhile, former East Timor military commander Brig. Gen. Noer Muis said that most East Timorese staffers of the United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) preparing for the ballot stayed in churches as the polling places were nearby.

Noer Muis was testifying during the trial of five military and police personnel, and civilian officials allegedly responsible for the killing of civilian refugees in a Suai church.

He said that before the attack on Suai's St. Ave Maria Church, which killed 27 people, including three Catholic priests, church officials prevented the military and police from entering the compound where proindependence supporters had taken refuge.

Another witness, forensic expert Budi Sampurno, revealed that only 26 bodies were exhumed by his team on Nov. 25, 1999, from three mass graves on a sandy beach in Belu district, East Nusa Tenggara, near the border with East Timor.

He said that 12 of the victims had died from gunshot wounds, eight from slash wounds, three from other kinds of wounds, while the cause of death of three others could not be determined due to the decomposed state of the corpses.

"From the condition of the bones and the matching marks on the corpses' clothes, we assumed that they had been hit by high velocity bullets," he said, adding that no bullets were found in the sand to help them identify the kinds of weapons used.

The ad hoc Human Rights Tribunal is scheduled to open the trial of former militia leader Eurico Guterres on Thursday.

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