Subject: ABC: Wiranto defiant as ET presses charges

Wiranto not fit to minister in Indonesian government.Wiranto defiant as East Timor presses charges 27/02/2003 17:06:32 | The World Today

Indonesia's former Defence Minister and Army Chief, General Wiranto, has hit back at charges filed yesterday in East Timor which accuse him of crimes against humanity.


JOHN HIGHFIELD: Let's go to Indonesia here. Indonesia's former Defence Minister and Army Chief, General Wiranto, has hit back at charges filed yesterday accusing him of crimes against humanity.

The General says the East Timorese court that issued the indictments has no mandate to pursue Indonesians, and, regardless of that, he only ever wanted a harmonious East Timor.

The General, though, was less interested in discussing whether the charges could blunt his political ambition, or even stop him from leaving Indonesia.

Our Indonesia correspondent Tim Palmer reports.

TIM PALMER: He's charged with carrying out crimes against humanity, specifically, murder, deportation, and torture. The evidence against him and his co-accused includes 1,500 witness statements and relates to 280 murders.

But today's Indonesia's former Defence Minister and army commander, General Wiranto, painted a very different picture of his command in the last days of East Timor under Indonesian control.

Wiranto sat cross-legged with journalists on the floor of a plush Jakarta hotel to watch on a big screen a speech he gave in East Timor where he called for a peaceful solution. And that, he says, is evidence enough that he wasn't the sort of man to carry out or condone human rights crimes.

WIRANTO: None of my plans were anything to do with crimes, or planning to kill, he said. But only to guard the ballot for East Timor in peace. I'm a long a road with others to stand up for the truth, he went on. With my friends, we're not running and hiding from the charges.

TIM PALMER: But then, General Wiranto doesn't have to run or hide. He knows Indonesia won't extradite the charged men to East Timor, despite the fact that he wasn't charged during Indonesia's own heavily criticised East Timor human rights trials.

Even so, the General was keen to attack the standing of the charges which, while prepared by UN-sponsored prosecutors, were filed in the District Court of East Timor. Not an international court, he reminded the media, both at his press conference and later in a lengthy television appearance that seemed designed to restore the local reputation of a man who's listed as a potential presidential candidate at next year's polls.

A court with no mandate to prosecute him, he insisted, but a court nonetheless and one that has notified Interpol of the charges against Wiranto and his co-accused. So will that stop the General from travelling?

Do you fear now that if you go overseas you will be arrested?

WIRANTO: I think you, I have explained about {inaudible} East Timor, with my explanation. [inaudible] Interpol…

TIM PALMER: Anyway, the question is misleading, the General went on in Indonesian. Interpol is only interested in general crime.

[Wiranto speaking]

TIM PALMER: As to how the continued spectre of a human rights charge might loom over his political aspirations, that wasn't an issue to be discussed today.

Do you think you could ever be President with this hanging over your head?

WIRANTO: You're, your question is very sensitive.

TIM PALMER: Sensitive perhaps, but at least one former colleague and now military and political analyst says the charges could badly effect any political resurgence the former Commander-in-Chief had planned.

JOHN HIGHFIELD: Tim Palmer is our Jakarta correspondent.

Transcripts from programs "AM", "The World Today", "PM", the "7:30 Report" and "Lateline" are created by an independent transcription service. The ABC does not warrant the accuracy of the transcripts. ABC Online users are advised to listen to the audio provided on this page to verify the accuracy of the transcripts.

27/02/2003 17:06:32 | The World Today

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