Subject: AFP: Indonesian officer says he tried to prevent East Timor massacres

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

Agence France Presse February 17, 2003

Indonesian officer says he tried to prevent East Timor massacres


A former Indonesian military chief for East Timor said Monday he tried to prevent massacres in East Timor in September 1999 and that none of his own men were involved.

"None of the witnesses who were heard in court said that the TNI (the armed forces) was involved in the attacks," Colonel Noer Muis told a human rights court.

Muis is charged with failing to prevent attacks on the diocese in Dili on September 5 that year and on the Dili bishop's residence the following day that left 13 people dead.

He is also accused of failing to prevent an attack on a church in Suai on September 6 in which 26 people were killed.

Prosecutors have asked that he be jailed for 10 years for gross rights violations.

Muis, reading his defence plea, denied that the military had failed to take any action to stem the violence.

He said he had immediately ordered a local commander to help the police halt the violence at the bishop's house. Muis said he sent about 60 reinforcements to help halt the violence in the two incidents in Dili.

In Suai, he said the local commander had deployed all his available forces to halt the attacks on the church and to save people sheltering inside from pro-Jakarta militiamen.

The militias, armed and organised by the Indonesian military, launched a brutal campaign of intimidation before the UN-organised independence vote in August and a revenge campaign afterwards. An estimated 1,000 people were killed.

"During the unrest in East Timor, the TNI deployed 347 personnel to safeguard 23 critical spots in East Timor that were prone to conflict between pro-independence and pro- Indonesia groups," Muis said.

Muis is one of 18 military and police officers or civilians who have appeared before the court. They were accused of gross rights violations in East Timor in April and September 1999.

The court has imposed jail sentences on a former Dili police chief and a former military chief in the territory as well as on the former civilian governor and an ex-militia chief. All four are free pending appeals.

Ten security force members and a civilian have been acquitted in widely criticised verdicts. Three senior army officers including Muis are awaiting verdicts.

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