Subject: JP: Claims that army fuelled E.Timor atrocities are "fantasy": General

July 01, 2003

Claims that army fuelled E.Timor atrocities are "fantasy": General

JAKARTA (AFP): A general on trial before a human rights court on Tuesday rejected allegations that troops fuelled the 1999 atrocities in East Timor as "fantasy."

Major-General Adam Damiri is the last and highest-ranking official to appear before the court, accused of crimes against humanity during East Timor's bloody breakaway from Jakarta's rule.

The court seemed certain at some later date formally to acquit Damiri after prosecutors on June 5 announced they were dropping charges against him. In spite of that shock decision judges decided to continue the trial.

The general then spent 30 minutes reading a defence plea in which he described accusations against the armed forces in East Timor as "fantasy" and lies.

"From the series of trials of my subordinate commanders it has never been proven that any members of the TNI (armed forces) have been involved in any unrest prior during and after the poll," he said, referring to the independence referendum in August 1999 which was organised by the United Nations.

The militias waged a campaign of intimidation before East Timorese voted for independence, and a scorched-earth revenge campaign afterwards. At least 1,000 people are estimated to have died and whole towns were burnt to the ground. Indonesia refuses to hand anyone over to prosecutors in East Timor.

Damiri depicted the 1999 violence as a civil war between pro- and anti-independence groups, with the military striving to keep the peace. "Soldiers acted quickly to prevent unrest from spreading, evacuate victims and arrest culprits. Otherwise the death toll would have been far higher," he said.

The general hit out at groups which "noisily pointed fingers at TNI and cornered the TNI." Portugal, East Timor's former ruler which bowed out a year before Indonesia's 1975 invasion of the territory, had been "crowing randomly," he said.

Damiri in 1999 headed the regional military command overseeing East Timor and other areas. He is now on duty in Aceh province, where the military is mounting a major offensive against separatist rebels.

The defence was to continue making its submission Tuesday afternoon, with prosecutors to respond next week. It was not clear when the court would formally issue its verdict.

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