|Subject: AFP: Former military chief in East
Timor gets five years
Wednesday March 12, 19:25 PM
Former military chief in East Timor jailed for five years
JAKARTA (AFP) - An Indonesian general was sentenced to five years in jail for crimes against humanity during East Timor's bloody breakaway from Jakarta in 1999.
A human rights court convicted Noer Muis, a former military chief in East Timor, of failing to prevent massacres of independence supporters and others. He remains free pending an appeal.
Muis is only the third police or army officer to be convicted over the savage army-backed militia bloodshed before and after East Timor voted in August 1999 for independence.
Ten other security force members were earlier acquitted by the rights court in widely criticised verdicts.
"I reject the verdict and since I have the right, I will appeal," a calm-looking Muis told the judges Wednesday, complaining that the verdict was not in line with witness testimony.
He was convicted of failing to prevent attacks on the diocese in Dili on September 5, 1999, and on the Dili bishop's residence the following day. The two attacks left 13 people dead.
Muis was also found guilty of failing to prevent an attack on a church in Suai on September 6 in which 26 people were killed.
Prosecutors had asked that he be jailed for 10 years.
Chief judge Andriani Nurdin acknowledged that the minimum sentence under human rights law should have been 10 years.
"Ten years is not in line with the feeling of justice of the judges' panel. Justice should be prioritised... ," Nurdin said.
The verdict, read out in turns by the judges, said that "as military commander the defendant had failed to prevent his subordinates from allowing incidents to happen that led to a crime against humanity."
Muis had "intentionally allowed and even gave support" to the Suai attack, it said. Troops guarding the bishop's residence were withdrawn just hours before the attack, the verdict said.
Muis, who is now a brigadier general and deputy head of the military academy, says he had tried to prevent the massacres.
"None of the witnesses who were heard in court said that personnel of the TNI (armed forces) were involved in any of the attacks," he told reporters after embracing his wife.
The militias, armed and organised by the Indonesian military, launched a brutal campaign of intimidation before the UN-organised independence vote and a revenge campaign afterwards. An estimated 1,000 people were killed.
United Nations-funded prosecutors in East Timor last month indicted seven senior Indonesian officers including Muis for murder and other offences.
The seven "had effective control over militia groups operating in East Timor and are responsible for crimes they committed," that indictment alleged.
Indonesia has said it will not hand the men over to East Timor.
Jakarta general found guilty in Timor rampage
By Robert Go
JAKARTA - Indonesia's human rights tribunal yesterday convicted Brigadier-General Noer Muis, a former military chief in then-East Timor, of crimes against humanity committed just before its independence referendum in 1999.
Gen Noer, who served as a colonel in charge of 10,000 troops at that time, is the highest-ranked Indonesian military officer to be found guilty by the courts on Timor-related charges to date.
Prosecutors told the court that while the officer did not take part in the violence, he failed to prevent pro-Indonesia militia from unleashing their anger on pro-independence civilians.
Judges said Gen Noer had prior knowledge of the militia's plans, but allowed them to go on a rampage after Timorese voted overwhelmingly to separate from Indonesia.
An estimated 1,000 people lost their lives during the militia's brutal campaign.
Gen Noer was convicted on three specific incidents - two in the capital of Dili and one in Suai region - where nearly 40 people died. He was given a five-year jail sentence, but remains a free man pending an appeal.
The court's decision came as Indonesia faces increasing pressure to show its resolve in prosecuting its own military officers who are accused of human rights violations, particularly in relation to events in East Timor, now known as Timor Leste.
Observers say Gen Noer is only the third security officer to be convicted by the tribunal.
Of the 16 defendants whose cases have been completed so far, 11 have been acquitted. The cases of two others are pending trial.
With human rights organisations calling the tribunal a 'whitewash' and a 'sham', Indonesia's reputation depends on the outcome of the trials.
Mr Arief Budiman, who heads the Indonesian programme at the University of Melbourne, said: 'There is tremendous pressure on Indonesia to deal with the atrocities in Timor Leste.
'The country is still dependent on foreign aid and has to showcase how it takes the trials seriously.'
In addition to financial aid, there is the issue of military assistance, which a number of Western countries, including the US and Australia, have suspended pending the trials' completion.
But for the government, there is also the consideration that many Indonesians view the accused officers sympathetically and believe they were only doing their job.
Mr Arief doubts that more senior officers, including former military chief General Wiranto, would face charges domestically or be handed over to international tribunals.
He said: 'Indonesians see these convicted individuals as sacrifices made to appease the international community. But if the government does more than that, it risks creating domestic problems for itself.'
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