Fri, 09 May 2003

Tono's verdict to be delivered May 23

JAKARTA: The ad-hoc human rights tribunal is scheduled to deliver on May 23 the verdict of former East Timor Military Commander Brig. Gen. Tono Suratman, who is accused of failing to prevent a spate of human rights abuses before and after the 1999 self-determination ballot in East Timor.

Presiding judge Andi Samsan Nganro announced the decision on Thursday after Tono's lawyers presented the last defense statements at the hearing.

During the hearing, his lawyers insisted that the defendant was not guilty for the bloodshed outside the house of Manuel Carrascalao on April 17, 1999, or the massacre inside the Ave Maria church in Suai on April 5 and April 6, 1999.

The attack on the church claimed nine lives, while the attacks on the residences of Carrascalao claimed the lives of 12 civilians, including Carrascalao's teenage son Manuelito.

Tono is one of 18 former East Timor officials the human rights tribunal is trying or has tried for their involvement in a series of human rights abuses in the territory in 1999. Eleven of them were acquitted, five were given light sentences, and two, including Tono, are awaiting verdicts. -- JP