Subject: Indonesia Ex-Military Chief Denies E Timor Abuse Charges

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

Indonesia Ex-Military Chief Denies E Timor Abuse Charges

JAKARTA, Feb. 26 (AP)--A former Indonesian armed forces chief on Wednesday denied allegations of crimes against humanity contained in a U.N. indictment, and questioned the legality of charges that hold him responsible for the bloody mayhem that swept East Timor in 1999.

Gen. Wiranto was indicted Tuesday along with six other Indonesian military commanders and the ex-governor of East Timor. The indictment implicates the eight in murder, deportations and persecution committed by their subordinates before and after East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia.

"I have repeatedly told the people that I never planned or ordered people to commit crimes such as murder, torture, kidnap or deportation," Wiranto said, after showing a video clip of a reconciliation speech he gave during the conflict. "I have tried many times to prevent those things from happening."

Indonesia said Tuesday it will ignore the indictments, making it unlikely the men will face justice.

"This is really degrading and offensive to us," said Amien Rais, speaker of Indonesia's top legislative body. "The request doesn't make sense and insults the integrity of our country."

Many East Timorese welcomed the charges, viewing them as a step toward healing the wounds of the violence that killed nearly 2,000 people and forced 250,000 from their homes.

Rights groups responded to the indictment by calling on Indonesia to send Wiranto, who like many Indonesians uses a single name, and the others to East Timor's capital of Dili.

"This is the first genuine attempt to hold senior officials accountable for the organized violence in 1999," the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

"The big test now will be whether Indonesia is prepared to arrest those indictees in Indonesia and send them to Dili for trial. This will require a fundamental change in Indonesia's attitude toward justice for East Timor."

East Timor prosecutors, who are working with the U.N. Special Crimes unit, said they plan to send the indictments to Indonesia's attorney general's office. The Special Crimes Unit is the U.N. organization in charge of investigating and prosecuting atrocities in East Timor.

Wiranto said the indictment had no legal validity because it came from outside of Indonesia. He said he will only cooperate with an Indonesian court currently trying 18 defendants accused of crimes against humanity in East Timor.

The list of 18 doesn't include Wiranto, though he has appeared as a witness during the trial of some of the other defendants.

Wiranto's lawyer, Ruhut Sitompul, said his client would "not lose any sleep" over the indictment and suggested it was part of a plan to hurt his client's presidential aspirations in 2004.

"The general will ignore these charges because there are no reasons for him to appear in court in East Timor," Sitompul said. "It's a political game by those who want to ruin his chances of being president."

Wiranto has been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate for the Golkar Party of former dictator Suharto. Golkar is now the second largest political party in Indonesia.

Along with Wiranto, those indicted are Maj. Gen. Zacky Anwar Makarim, Maj. Gen. Kiki Syahnakri, Maj. Gen. Adam Rachmat Damiri, Col. Suhartono Suratman, Col. Mohammad Noer Muis, Lt. Col. Yayat Sudrajat and Soares.

The mandate for the Dili courts, which include both U.N. and East Timorese personnel, covers all crimes committed in 1999 in East Timor irrespective of whether the suspects are East Timorese or Indonesian. So far, the Dili courts have indicted 178 people but 106 of those - including 12 Indonesian soldiers - remain free in Indonesia.

The United Nations governed East Timor for 2 1/2 years until the territory achieved independence last May. It still provides government advisers, several hundred policemen and about 2,500 peacekeeping troops in the world's newest nation.

-Edited by Genevieve I. Soledad

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