Tue, 14 May 2002

Several Army soldiers saw but did not stop massacre: Witness

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

A witness testified on Monday in the human rights court for the 1999 East Timor debacle that military troops were deployed to a Suai church that was under attack, but they did nothing to stop the killing.

First Insp. Sony Sanjaya, a member of the Mobile Brigade Police serving in Suai when the raid took place, said he saw several military troops standing near the St. Ave Maria Catholic Church when a group of pro-Jakarta militias attacked proindependence rivals seeking refuge at the place of worship, leaving 27 people dead, including three priests.

"I asked the troops what was going on. They just said that the prointegration group attacked the church," Sony told the court. "I asked them further why they let it (the attack) happen. They just replied that they could not stop it since there were too many attackers."

Sony said he fired warning shots in an attempt to stop the clash, which was effective for a while, but then some of his subordinates notified him of a summons by his commander.

It is unclear whether other police officers also tried to restore order and peace.

Sony was testifying against former Covalima regent Col. Herman Sedyono, former Suai military commander Col. Sugito, Sugito's predecessor Lt. Col. Liliek Koeshadianto, Suai military command chief of staff Capt. Achmad Syamsudin, and former Suai Police chief Lt. Col. Gatot Subiakto, who are charged with gross human rights violations.

Also appearing as a witness in court was Pranoto, the principal at the local junior high school in Suai.

Sony said he saw Liliek near the church and speaking with the leader of the pro-Jakarta militia group Laksaur, the late Olivio Mendoza Moruk.

"I heard Pak Liliek ask Olivio to leave the area. But Olivio replied, 'No, Commander ... I'll take responsibility," Sony said.

Pranoto, who had accompanied his family members to seek refuge in Suai, said he saw Olivio drive a truck loaded with many weapons, including daggers and bows and arrows.

Sony said he had only heard that 27 people were killed in the massacre and that he recognized one of them as the supporter of a proindependence group.