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Indonesia Charges 7 Officials in East Timor Violence

Indonesian prosecutors have charged seven officials for failing to stop violence that engulfed East Timor in 1999. Hundreds of people died and thousands were forced out of the territory in months of terror surrounding East Timor's independence vote from Indonesia.

A spokesman for Indonesia's Attorney General's office says the charges against the officials were tantamount to "genocide."

Seven senior officials were charged with "allowing or not preventing" crimes committed at the time of East Timor's independence ballot. East Timor's former governor, Abilio Soares, and former police chief Brigadier General Timbul Silaen are among those charged. Both had been appointed to their positions by the Indonesian government.

The seven are among 18 indicted last year for alleged human rights abuses.

Court official D.J. Sidabolak says no dates have been set for their trials. He says this is the first time the Jakarta human rights court has received cases of serious human rights abuse. He also says there are still procedures to follow and he doesn't have the authority to say when the trials will take place.

Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri last month appointed judges to ad-hoc human rights tribunals that will consider the East Timor cases.

Human rights groups allege that some Indonesian officials orchestrated a campaign of violence in East Timor by anti-independence militia groups. Hundreds died in the wake of the territory's vote for independence after 24 years of Indonesian rule.

United Nations officials in East Timor are carrying out an investigation parallel to the Indonesian inquiry.

U.N. prosecutors have indicted 99 suspects including 17 earlier this week. Officials say they want Indonesia's cooperation in extraditing some suspects to East Timor for trial. But Indonesia says it cannot extradite any suspects, because it is not allowed by Indonesian law.