Thu, 13 Mar 2003

Moeis gets five years in jail but remains free

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The ad hoc rights tribunal sentenced former East Timor military commander Brig. Gen. Noer Moeis to five years in jail on Wednesday for gross human rights violations in the territory in 1999, but, as usual, fell short of sending the officer to jail immediately.

Moeis, one of the 18 military and police personnel, as well as civilians, brought before the court over a bloody reign of terror before, during, and after the United Nations-sponsored referendum in East Timor in 1999, appealed the verdict.

Presiding judge Adriani Nurdin told the ad hoc rights tribunal on Wednesday that Moeis failed to prevent attacks on the Dili diocesan offices on Sept. 5, 1999, and the residence of Dili bishop Carlos Felipe Ximenes Bello the following day. At least 13 people were killed in the two incidents.

The court also ruled that Moeis, who was a colonel at the time, was guilty of failing to prevent an attack on a church in Suai on Sept. 6 in which 26 people were killed.

"As the military commander, the defendant failed to prevent his subordinates from allowing such incidents to happen, with the result that crimes against humanity occurred," said Adriani, reading out the verdict.

Moeis is the highest ranking military officer to be sentenced to jail so far for the rampage that destroyed almost 90 percent of the infrastructure in Indonesia's former 27th province, and drove almost 250,000 East Timorese into refugee camps in Indonesia's West Timor.

The two other military officers convicted so far are Lt. Col. Soedjarwo, the former Dili military chief, and Adj. Sr. Comr. Hulman Gultom, the former Dili police chief, who received five and three years in jail respectively.

Two civilians have also been convicted by the ad hoc tribunal. They are the former East Timor governor Abilio Soares, who got a three-year jail sentence, and notorious militia leader Eurico Guterres, who received 10 years in jail.

Ten other police and military officers were earlier acquitted in widely criticized verdicts.

Prosecutors had demanded a 10-year jail term for Moeis -- the minimum sentence under Indonesia's human rights law -- for the offense, which carries a maximum penalty of death.

"We must prioritize justice. Ten years is not in line with the sense of justice of the judges," Adriani said.

Moeis, who looked calm during the trial, complained that the verdict was not in line with the testimony given by witnesses during the trial.

"I reject the verdict and since I have the right, I will appeal," said Moeis, who is now the deputy head of the national military academy.

The human rights tribunal is still hearing two other cases, the prosecutions against another former East Timor military commander, Brig. Gen. Tono Suratman, and Maj. Gen. Adam Damiri, the former chief Bali-based Udayana military command overseeing Bali, Nusa Tenggara and East Timor.

The United Nations estimated that some 1,000 people were killed in the run-up to, during and after the UN-sponsored independence vote in East Timor in 1999, in which the majority of East Timorese voted to secede from Indonesia after the territory had been occupied by its giant neighbor for more than two decades.