Subject: Jakarta 'Perplexed' By E Timor PM's Call For Intl Tribunal

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

E Timor PM Call For Intl Tribunal Draws Fire From Jakarta

DILI, East Timor, June 10 (AP) -- East Timor's prime minister drew fire from Jakarta Tuesday after resuming his call for an international tribunal to try Indonesian officers for alleged rights abuses during the country's bloody fight for independence.

Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri's suggestion had already been flatly rejected by Indonesia, and pressing the issue could complicate efforts to improve bilateral relations when the two countries meet for talks starting Wednesday in Jakarta.

Unlike President Xanana Gusmao and other Timorese leaders, Alkatiri has been a vocal critic of the Jakarta courts that are trying 18 senior Indonesian officials over their alleged roles in the 1999 violence, which left up to 1,500 people dead.

Calling the Jakarta proceedings a "theater," Alkatiri said last month that an international tribunal should be established in a neutral country.

On Tuesday, he reaffirmed his support for a tribunal but emphasized he would not bring it up in meetings with President Megawati Sukarnoputri Wednesday unless she broached the subject first.

"The U.N. has an obligation to establish an international tribunal in a neutral country," he said before flying to Jakarta for a four-day visit.

"If Ms. Megawati wants to discuss the comments I made before about the tribunal, then I will discuss them in detail," he said. "But my mission in Indonesia is not to talk about the justice system. My mission is to talk about bilateral cooperation and border issues."

Marty Natalegawa, an Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman, said he was "perplexed" by Alkatiri's comments, adding that he thought the prime minister had retracted his earlier statements and told Indonesian authorities that he was misquoted.

"Suggestions from the government of East Timor that an international tribunal should be established would concern Indonesia," he said.

"Indonesia's position is that this issue is one that should be addressed by national means, through our own legal process," he said. "We have a national process which is still ongoing. We should respect this process. We would absolutely reject calls for a tribunal."

The Jakarta trials have so far acquitted 12 suspects and convicted five, all of whom are free pending appeals. The last defendant, Maj. Gen. Adam Damiri, is expected to go free after prosecutors recommended that he be acquitted of all charges.

Alkatiri's comments will likely cheer rights activists, who have called the Jakarta courts a sham and demanded that a tribunal be established similar to what was used in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

Indonesian troops and their militia proxies destroyed much of East Timor before and after voters approved a U.N.-sponsored independence referendum in 1999. East Timor became independent May 20, 2002.

Gusmao has said that maintaining ties with its giant neighbor is more important than pursuing justice for those accused in the violence.

Prosecutors in the capital Dili are pursuing their own war crimes trials. They have indicted more than 250 people, including the former chief of the Indonesian military, Gen. Wiranto. Thirty-two people, mostly former Timorese militiamen, have been convicted.

But Indonesia has rejected demands by Dili prosecutors to extradite many of the higher ranking Indonesian military officers including Wiranto, making it highly unlikely they would be tried for alleged war crimes.

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