Subject: JP: E. Timor clergyman says soldiers among 1999 church attackers

January 24, 2003

E. Timor clergyman says soldiers among 1999 church attackers

JAKARTA (JP): Father Raphael dos Santos, an East Timorese priest, said on Thursday Indonesian Military soldiers and policemen were among the attackers of his refugee-packed church in the town of Liquica in April 1999.

Father dos Santos was testifying by teleconference from Dili at Indonesia's human rights tribunal here. "I saw it myself, that the attackers were soldiers, police and militia members," Dos Santos told the trial of Maj. Gen. Adam Damiri, who headed the military command overseeing East Timor and other provinces at the time of the attack, as quoted by AFP.

Adam Damiri is the most senior of 18 military and police officers, officials and civilians to have appeared before the court. All were accused of gross rights violations in East Timor in April and September 1999, before and after the territory voted in August that year for independence from Indonesia.

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 criticized verdicts. Three senior Army officers including Damiri are awaiting verdicts.

The Catholic priest said he also saw police firing tear gas into the church compound. Shots were also fired toward his house in the compound.

Pro-Indonesian local militias, angered by the actions by independence supporters against some militia members in Liquica, attacked the church where dos Santos said some 2,000 people were sheltering. Prosecutors have said at least 18 people were killed in the attack.

Several witnesses from East Timor have previously told other trials at the rights court that they saw soldiers among the attackers of the Liquica church.

The priest said that soon after the attack he was taken to the safety of the local military headquarters by soldiers. When he returned to his house, it was ransacked and traces of blood were everywhere.

"I reject all of the witness' testimony because this testimony runs against and is not in line with the testimonies of other itnesses," Adam told the court, referring to evidence given by the chiefs of the local military and police.

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