Wed, 05 Apr 2000

U.S. regrets lawsuit against Johny

JAKARTA (JP): The U.S. government expressed regret on Monday over a lawsuit filed against Indonesian Army Lt. Gen. Johny Lumintang for his alleged role in violence in East Timor last year.

U.S. Ambassador Robert S. Gelbard said his government termed it "an unfortunate circumstance" and promised to personally explain to Johny the details of the legal action as soon as possible.

"The U.S. government was not involved with this and I personally consider him as a friend ... this is very unfortunate," Gelbard said after a meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs Alwi Shihab.

However, the ambassador said his government could not help Johny because the case was a civil lawsuit, which according to the country's court system bans the government's intervention.

The New York-based Representatives of the Center for Constitutional Rights and the San Francisco-based Center for Justice and Accountability, on behalf of East Timorese plaintiffs, served Johny legal papers when he was in the U.S. last week at the U.S. government's invitation to speak in a seminar about the reform movement within the Indonesian military.

Johny is currently governor of the National Resilience Institute (Lemhannas) governor.

Gelbard confirmed on Monday there was no criminal lawsuit against Johny, saying the plaintiffs were seeking compensation. "So it was not an issue of him becoming a suspect," he said.

Alwi said the Indonesian government will advise Johny not to meet any summons from the United States court following the lawsuit. The minister added Johny could instead asked his lawyers to attend any court hearing.

"It is not necessary for Pak Johny to give an explanation to the U.S. court. It is better to send someone else to go on his behalf, a staff from the embassy for instance," Alwi said.

He added the Indonesian government could not do more than providing advice because the lawsuit was not filed by the U.S. government.

"It's a matter of their legal system and we cannot address the complaint," he remarked.

Alwi left for New York on Tuesday for talks on East Timor refugees, but said he would also seek solution for Johny's case upon request of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Tyasno Sudarto.

Tyasno said on Monday he expected the foreign ministry to ensure that any government that invited TNI officers would respect their rights and privileges. (dja)