Subject: Age/E.Timor: Torture evidence mounts against Indonesian general

The Age Thursday 26 April 2001

Torture evidence mounts against Indonesian general


Evidence is mounting against retired Indonesian Lieutenant-General Prabowo Subianto for his alleged role in atrocities in East Timor. General Prabowo, a former commander of the feared Kostrad special forces, is former president Suharto's son-in-law. He served in Indonesia between 1976 and the 1990s.

Last Saturday he shared a conference platform in Jakarta with East Timor independence leader Jose "Xanana" Gusmao. General Prabowo admitted there had been excesses by Indonesian troops in East Timor. But the men later embraced and declared such differences should belong to the past.

Like many East Timorese war victims, 43-year-old Domingos Santana Guterres does not share Mr Gusmao's view. He alleges that in 1989 he was tortured for 35 days by soldiers under General Prabowo's command. Details of the allegation have been passed to the United Nations. When Mr Guterres refused to confess to having guerrilla contacts, he claims General Prabowo, ranked major at the time, took over the torture.

Mr Guterres now ekes out a living as a subsistence farmer in the small village of Dara Lata, near Venilale.

He tells how he was arrested by General Prabowo in July, 1989, with Father Locatelli, a popular local priest, and Aleixo Ximenes, of Baucau. Father Locatelli and Mr Ximenes were released that night but Mr Guterres was tied up and thrown into a cell. He says he was kept in the cell alone for four days, deprived of food and water and forced to lie in his own excrement.

On the fifth day he was taken to a nearby building where the torture began. He was kicked, beaten, given electric shocks and made to stand naked in a barrel under torrential rain for hours. After each torture session, he said, Indonesian military nurses treated his wounds to prepare him for the next bout.

He said that by September 29, General Prabowo was enraged by the prisoner's stubbornness. Mr Guterres was then taken into General Prabowo's office where the officer screamed that he would teach him a lesson.

"For two hours he broke every conceivable thing over my body. He threw beer crates, a petrol lamp, beat me with sticks and punched and kicked me," he said.

General Prabowo also threaded an electric wire between Mr Guterres' bound hands and gave him electric shocks. "I was so swollen and bleeding afterwards, I was unrecognisable," he said.

His suffering ended suddenly. The Pope was due to visit East Timor on October 12 and the Indonesian administration was under mounting world pressure to release political prisoners. Mr Guterres was freed two days before the Pope's arrival.

At the town of Viqueque, south of Venilale, UN police have begun investigations into the Kraras massacres of September, 1983. About 300people are believed to have been buried in mass graves at the town after a series of executions that the locals say were carried out under General Prabowo.

The investigators recently began interviewing survivors and inspecting alleged mass grave sites.

In an interview with Asiaweek magazine in March, 2000, General Prabowo claimed that he was not in Kraras on the relevant dates. But witnesses who place him there are still coming forward.

Agostinho Guterres, of Klalerek Mutin, says he was captured by General Prabowo in the Kraras area on September 7. He and several other Timorese were marched out of the area tied together in pairs. He was then drafted into the Indonesian army and sent to Dili.

The main Kraras massacre occurred around September 17, 1983. Witnesses claim that about 180unarmed civilians were machine-gunned in reprisal for the mass desertion of Timorese soldiers from the Indonesian army. The witnesses say General Prabowo commanded the operation. 

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