Thu, 30 Jan 2003

Muis denies prior knowledge of riot

JAKARTA: An Army general accused of failing to prevent riots in East Timor in 1999 denied on Wednesday that he had prior knowledge of the Sept. 9 riots in Dili.

Former East Timor military commander Brig. Gen. Noer Muis told the human rights tribunal that his subordinate Lt. Col. Soedjarwo failed to inform him of an impending attack by pro-Jakarta militias on the residence of Dili Bishop Felipe Ximenes Belo on Sept. 6, in which scores of independence supporters were killed.

Former Dili military district commander Soedjarwo has been sentenced to five years in jail for failing to prevent the bloody attack.

Pro-Jakarta militia members went on a bloody rampage before and after the United Nations-sponsored referendum on Aug. 30, 1999, in which East Timorese voted to break away from Indonesia.

Muis said the riots in East Timor were a consequence of the UN Mission in East Timor's decision to announce the referendum result ahead of schedule in September 1999.

"We had taken maximum precautions, but were still unprepared due to the rescheduling," he said. -- JP