Thu, 10 Mar 2005

SBY told to summon AG over general's E. Timor acquittal

Tiarma Siboro, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has been urged to summon Attorney General Abdul Rahman Saleh over an Army general's acquittal of human rights violations in the 1999 East Timor carnage.

The Supreme Court recently upheld the acquittal by the human rights tribunal of Brig. Gen. Tono Suratman, who was the chief of the now defunct Wiradharma military command in Dili, East Timor, when military-backed militias ravaged the former Indonesian province during a 1999 independence vote.

On Monday, a panel of justices upheld Tono's acquittal of all charges after a team of prosecutors led by Gabrial Simangunsong failed to submit legal arguments to the Supreme Court to persuade it to convict the one-star general.

The prosecution team had sought 10 years in jail for Tono, but in May 2003 the ad hoc human rights tribunal acquitted the defendant of all charges.

Gabrial appealed to the Supreme Court but failed to submit any legal arguments before the elapse of the two-year deadline.

Usman Hamid from the National Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) said on Wednesday that the Attorney General's Office (AGO) must explain why such "negligence" had happened.

President Susilo should summon Rahman to find out whether the "negligence" had in fact been deliberate in order to ensure Tono's freedom, Usman added.

Sharing Usman's view was human rights lawyer Mugiyanto. He accused the government of lying to the public and the international community by failing to provide justice to the victims of the East Timor carnage and by not jailing those figures responsible for the violence.

Monday's ruling on Tono means that 17 defendants in the East Timor trials have walked free. Former militia chief Eurico Gutteres, who received 10 years in jail, is the only defendant left appealing against his conviction to the Supreme Court.

Tono freedom was secured only a month after the United Nations unveiled a plan to conduct its own inquiry into the 1999 rampage, in which Indonesian-backed gangs are accused of killing about 1,000 East Timorese.





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