Subject: KY: Indonesia's top court upholds acquittal in E. Timor case

Indonesia's top court upholds acquittal in E. Timor case

JAKARTA, March 8 (Kyodo) _ Indonesia's Supreme Court has upheld a special court's decision to acquit five middle-ranking officers of charges of gross human rights violations in East Timor in 1999 when its people voted to separate from Indonesia, a court source said Monday.

The source told Kyodo News that in a decision last Wednesday, a five-member Supreme Court judicial panel rejected an appeal made by prosecutors over the Ad Hoc Human Rights Tribunal's verdict two years ago to acquit the officers and upheld the tribunal's decision.

Col. Herman Sedyono, 56, former regent of the East Timor Regency of Covalima, and four other military and police officers were previously accused of involvement in the massacre at Hail Mary Church in the regency capital of Suai, where at least 27 people including three Catholic priests were killed Sept. 6, 1999.

The four officers are Lt. Col. Lilik Koeshardiyanto, 51, a former Covalima military commander, Capt. Achmad Syamsudin, 39, a former Covalima military chief of staff, Lt. Col. Sugito, a former Suai military commander, and Gatot Subiaktoro, 45, a former Suai police chief.

Previously, prosecutors had demanded jail terms between 10 years and 10 and a half years, for them, accusing them of failing to implement ''effective control'' on their men and conspiring with pro-integration East Timorese militia groups of Laksaur and Mahidi to attack against civilians taking refuge at the church.

About 22,000 refugees were sheltering in the church compound when the militiamen, armed with firearms and homemade guns and backed by Indonesian police and military soldiers, attacked.

''The judicial panel does not find any effective relationships between the perpetrators (Laksaur and Mahidi militiamen) and the defendants,'' the source said, quoting the Supreme Court's decision.

According to the source, two of the five judges expressed a dissenting opinion about the decision.

In response to the decision, chief prosecutor Darmono said he has not received a copy of it but ''will be very disappointed if the news about the decision is true.''

The Supreme Court's decision was the second to be made in connection with the special tribunal. In January, the apex court acquitted former East Timor police chief Timbul Silaen, currently the police chief of Papua Province, of similar charges.

The Ad Hoc Human Rights Tribunal has acquitted 11 military and police officers who were accused of involvement in 1999 attacks, but has sentenced five other army and police officers to up to five years in jail.

In August 2002, former East Timor Gov. Abilio Jose Osorio Soares was sentenced to three years in jail in connection with the violence, while in December the same year, the tribunal handed down a 10-year sentence to feared Aitarak militia leader Eurico Guterres.

see also Justice Denied in East Timor Church Massacre (http://hrw.org/english/docs/2004/03/11/indone8107.htm)


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