Subject: International Outrage at Indon Court's Timor Murder Sentences

Outrage at Indonesia court's Timor murder sentences

By Jonathan Thatcher

JAKARTA, May 4 (Reuters) - Indonesia jailed six men for up to 20 months on Friday over the brutal slaying of three U.N. aid workers in West Timor, and immediately earned international outrage for being too lenient.

The three workers with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) were stabbed and their bodies dragged into the street and set ablaze last September after a rampaging mob attacked their office in the West Timor border town of Atambua.

"The elements that caused the U.N. officers' deaths cannot be proved to be (linked to the defendants)... because the action was perpetrated by a mob," Judge Anak Agung Gede Dalem told the North Jakarta court when sentencing three of the men.

The six men, all East Timorese who still consider themselves Indonesian despite a 1999 vote for independence in neighbouring East Timor, received sentences ranging from 10 to 20 months.

They had faced up to 34 years in prison over the slayings of the three U.N. workers -- an American, a Croat and an Ethiopian.

"The sentences make a mockery of the international community's insistence that justice be done in this horrific case," the UNHCR said in a statement at its Geneva headquarters.

The refugee agency, which described the sentences as "deeply disturbing," said it would carefully study the court's decision and "take it into account when considering further action." It did not say what the action might be.

Indonesia has managed to routinely ignite international fury over its behaviour in East Timor, from the day it invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975 to its catastrophic withdrawl in 1999 and subsequent inability to deal with pro-Jakarta gangs of East Timorese now operating in West Timor.


Diplomats said the relatively light sentences were bound to rekindle wider international fury over the incident, one of the bloodiest ever attacks on United Nations civilian personnel.

"It's pathetic," one diplomat said of the jail terms. "But it isn't the first time and I don't suppose it will be the last."

Another expected the international reaction would be "quite severe," noting the incident had already been the subject of a strongly worded U.N. Security Council resolution in September.

Indonesia came under intense pressure to bring those involved to court after the slayings, and was told desperately needed aid could be at risk if it failed to do so.

"The court's verdict is quite proportional," the men's lawyer, Suhardi Sumomuljono, said.

The sentences of the six men will be cut by the amount of time they have served in detention since October.

Prosecutor Widodo Supriyadi said he would decide in a week whether to appeal but he too considered the sentences in line with the charges.

"The court's verdict is quite appropriate since our charge was violence against people or things," he said.

The verdict follows Monday's sentencing of East Timorese militia leader Eurico Guterres to just just six months' jail for inciting violence in Atambua shortly after the UNHCR killings.

More than 100,000 East Timorese refugees live in mostly squalid conditions across the border in West Timor where they were herded by Indonesian military-backed militia groups.

The militia groups, with the open support of Indonesian troops, embarked on a campaign of terror and destruction of the tiny territory after most East Timorese voted to end 23 years of often brutal Jakarta rule.

East Timor is now under U.N. administration and due to end sometime next year when it finally becomes independent.

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