|Subject: JP: Noted religious leaders call
for cessation of Timor trials
February 19, 2003
Noted religious leaders call for cessation of current E. Timor rights trials
Tiarma Siboro, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Noted religious leaders grouped in the National Moral Movement (GMN) called on the government to halt the East Timor human rights trials, claiming that they were politically motivated.
A member of the movement, Hasyim Muzadi, told a media conference on Tuesday the reason the rights cases should be halted was because diplomatic ties between Indonesia and East Timor had improved.
"This call is not meant as interference with the courts. But the prosecution of the East Timor human rights abuse cases is more political (matter) than criminal," said Hasyim, who leads Nahdlatul Ulama, the country's largest Muslim organization.
A new chapter in relations between Indonesia and its former province started when East Timor's first ambassador to Indonesia, Protestant minister Arlindo Marcal, presented his credentials to President Megawati Soekarnoputri on Feb. 7.
Jakarta has appointed a charge d'affaires for its representative office in East Timor.
Hasyim convened the conference to publicize the results of a visit by GMN figures to Australia to campaign against a war in Iraq. The religious leaders flew to Europe later in the day, where they are due to visit Pope John Paul II in the Vatican and the European Union's headquarters in Brussels as part of the same mission.
Cardinal Julius Darmaatmadja of the Indonesian Council of Bishops (KWI) and Protestant minister Andreas Yewangoe of the Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGI) are joining Hasyim on the round-the-world trip.
During the Australian visit last week, Hasyim said he met with Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer to discuss the East Timor rights trial issue.
"I asked Australia during the meeting to put the rights violations in East Timor behind it given that Indonesia and its former province have established diplomatic relationship. There's no more point in talking about the issue (of rights abuses) now," Hasyim said.
Downer promised to bring the matter to the Australian parliament, according to Hasyim,
East Timor seceded from Indonesia in 1999 when a massive majority of East Timorese voted for independence during a UN-sponsored ballot. In the presence of a number of world leaders, including Indonesian President Megawati Soekarnoputri, East Timor declared its independence as a republic on May 20, 2002, with Dili as its capital.
Several Indonesian civilians, and police and military officers have been tried for instigating the violence that erupted in East Timor in 1999. Most of the defendants have been found not guilty by the human rights tribunal.
Rights activists have expressed their disappointment with the course of the trials, which failed to sentence those few convicted to the maximum permissible sentences. They also accused the government of lacking the political will to put an end to impunity by leaving top military commanders untouched despite their duty to prevent violence at the time.
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