|Subject: JP: Witnesses say Suai church
attacked by armed militia
Witnesses say Suai church attacked by armed militia
The JAKARTA POST 13.6.2002 Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak
Witnesses testified before the human rights ad hoc trial for the 1999 East Timor atrocities on Tuesday that pro-Jakarta militia groups attacked proindependence supporters taking refuge in the St. Ave Maria Church in Suai town, Covalima regency, East Timor, on Sept. 6, 1999.
Ludo Ficus Ulu, an East Timorese member of the Suai military district command, told the court that the prointegration camp and militia groups were standing outside the church grounds armed with military-issue weapons, home-made weapons, bows and arrows, and machetes.
He was one of 20 soldiers deployed to the church to ``protect the public'' after more armed men started to arrive at the church after 8 a.m. on Sept. 6, 1999. The attack began around 1:30 p.m. on the same day, or two days after the result of the independence ballot was announced.
But neither he nor the other civilian witness, Julio Gusmao, who was one of the proindependence refugees, witnessed the massacre in the church that claimed 27 lives, mostly women and children, including three Catholic priests.
Both Ludo and Julio were testifying in defense of former Covalima regent Col. Herman Sedyono, former Suai military commander Col. Sugito, Sugito's predecessor Lt. Col. Liliek Koeshadianto, Suai military command chief of staff Capt. Achmad Syamsudin, and former Suai Police chief Lt. Col. Gatot Subiakto, who are being charged with gross human rights violations.
But Julio, who claimed to be pro-Jakarta and now resides as a farmer in Betun, East Nusa Tenggara, was not of much help to the defendants as he claimed he could not see what was happening from where he had taken refuge under a yellow truck which was parked to the left of the church.
``I took refuge with the other villagers to escape from the prointegration violence ... I got out from under the truck at 5:30 p.m. when there was no longer any shooting going on. I saw a man clad in military fatigues carrying the dead body of a woman. I don't know from where the corpse was taken,'' he said.
Presiding Judge Cicut Sutiarso adjourned the hearing until Wednesday to hear defense witnesses, including former administration officials, three police officers and an expert on mass psychology. Former Udayana military command chief Maj. Gen. Adam Damiri will not be testifying on Wednesday as he will be accompanying Vice President Hamzah Haz on a visit to troubled Maluku province.
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