Sat, 08 Apr 2000

Aceh rights abuse trial rescheduled for April 17

YOGYAKARTA (JP): After three delays, the joint military- civilian tribunal for alleged human rights violations in Aceh is slated to open on April 17 in Banda Aceh, Minister of Human Rights Affairs Hasballah M. Saad said on Friday.

A total of 24 suspects -- 23 are soldiers of the Indonesian Military (TNI) -- will stand trial before a panel of six judges on charges of killing 65 people in West Aceh in July last year, Hasballah said.

"My office and the Aceh provincial court have decided that the trial will start on April 17 as the dossiers have all been completed. We will proceed without Sudjono," he said, referring to Lt. Col. Sudjono, a key witness and suspect missing since November.

The mass killing took place in the remote hamlet of Beutong in West Aceh on July 23 when a group of troops opened fire at Islamic boarding school teacher Tengku Bantaqiah and dozens of his students.

The military, however, maintain that the deaths resulted from gunfights between soldiers and rebels.

The government-sanctioned inquiry team listed five cases last year of human rights abuse in Aceh that need addressing, including the Bantaqiah massacre which formed the basis for investigations leading to the joint military-civilian court.

Hasballah also said that a total of 3,000 Acehnese children who have fallen victim to the 10-year military operation will receive scholarships from the government this year. Previously 4,000 students received a similar allowance, he said.

At least 300 people, including civilians and security personnel, have been killed in Aceh in the first three months of this year according to Hasballah.

"But not all of the killings can be categorized as human rights violations as rebels of Free Aceh Movement (GAM), military/police and unidentified armed gangs and civilians are involved in this complicated conflict," he said.

Meanwhile, the body of a senior medical and law student at Syiah Kuala University, 23-year-old Cut Fatin Hamama was laid to rest in her home village at Baleh of Samalanga district in Bireun on Friday.

Cut Fatin was shot in the head in an incident on the Banda Aceh - Medan road in Indrapuri district, Aceh Besar.

She was sitting next to the driver of a public minibus on the way to Banda Aceh when without warning a bullet struck her head.

Fatin was rushed to Zainul Abidin hospital in Banda Aceh, but died due to massive bleeding.

Dayan Dawood, rector of Syiah Kuala University promised to establish a team to investigate Cut Fatin's death and reminded students not to take law into their own hands.

Aceh Police chief Brig. Gen. Bachrumsyah said on Friday the local police would conduct its own investigation.

According to Aceh Besar Police Chief Lt. Col. Sayed Husaini, about 1.5 hours earlier a group of armed men ambushed a truck loaded with police mobile brigade (Brimob) personnel in Keumireue area in Indrapuri, near the site where Cut Fatin was shot.

Three soldiers, identified as Pvt. Fatur, Pvt. Sabaruddin and Pvt. Joko were wounded in the ambush, Sayed said.

Sayed denied reports that any of his squad was involved in the fatal shooting of Cut Fatin.

In Pinto Weu, North Aceh, two shop-houses were burned and nine civilians were arrested on Thursday night in a massive sweeping operation after three soldiers and a security guard were killed on Tuesday in a firefight near Malikussaleh airfield.

Tension gripped Banda Aceh as well as neighboring Aceh Besar regency on Friday following outbreaks of violence in the two relatively calm towns ahead of the week-long Aceh People's Congress scheduled to begin on April 22. (44/50/edt)