Mon, 06 Mar 2000

TNI 'not involved' in Aceh massacre

BANDA ACEH, Aceh (JP): The chairman of the independent commission investigating rights abuses in Aceh, Amran Zamzami, dismissed on Sunday speculation that certain institutions, including the Indonesian Military (TNI), were behind the massacre of Tengku Bantaqiah and his followers as well as other cases last year.

Amran said his commission's investigation found no evidence of official orders being given for troops to open fire on Islamic boarding school teacher Tengku Bantaqiah and his students in the remote West Aceh hamlet of Beutong in July last year.

"So far no such indication has been found," Amran said.

Amran was responding to allegations that TNI was directly involved in the massacre.

At least 20 suspects, including TNI soldiers, will stand trial in a joint military-civilian court at the end of this month at the earliest in connection with the massacre. The case will be the first of five cases to be heard in the joint court as recommended by the commission.

The military insists that Bantaqiah was a supporter of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) rebel group and that the killings occurred as a result of an exchange of fire. A government- sanctioned inquiry last December, however, reported no resistance by the civilians during the incident.

Amran also said on Sunday that the commission would soon start an investigation into six other alleged rights violations, among them murder and armed assaults taking place in the regencies of East Aceh, Aceh Jeumpa, West Aceh and South Aceh.

Meanwhile, violence again flared up in the province when six people, including three suspected GAM leaders, were killed in the latest antirebel sweep over the weekend, police said on Sunday.

South Aceh Police chief Lt. Col. Teuku Kemala identified one of the casualties as Tengku Rajuddin Abbas, a GAM commander overseeing Blang Pidie region.

Rajuddin, 43, died on way to the hospital after being shot in the thigh during a raid on his house in Alue Jeureujak town late on Saturday, Kemala said.

Other suspected rebels were killed in another clash on Saturday in Pante Cermin village in West Aceh, said local police chief Lt. Col. Widhagdo. A soldier, Pvt. Edi Ham Pohan, was seriously injured in the armed confrontation. (50/edt)