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Indonesia: General Wiranto Testifies in E. Timor Trial - 2002-04-04

Indonesia's former Minister of Defense and head of the armed forces insists the Indonesian military had nothing to do with violence and destruction in East Timor in the days surrounding the territory's 1999 vote for independence. Former General Wiranto tells a court in Jakarta the United Nations is to blame for the violence.

A judge swears former General Wiranto in as a witness at a trial at Indonesia's special human rights court.

As the former minister of defense and head of the armed forces, Mr. Wiranto says the military did everything it could to prevent violence from breaking out in East Timor during the build-up to the territory's independence referendum three years ago.

Mr. Wiranto says, there were more than 4,000 foreigners staying in East Timor for a period of three months. And no one was killed while the territory was under Indonesian authority.

Mr. Wiranto also says the United Nations should carry the blame for the violence because of what he said were "irregularities" in ballot results.

The East Timorese voted overwhelmingly for independence from Indonesia in a U.N.-supervised ballot held in August 1999. The vote brought an end to more than two decades of fighting between East Timorese guerrillas and Indonesian troops - sparked by Indonesia's invasion of East Timor in 1975.

As a condition for allowing the ballot to take place, the Indonesian military - under Mr. Wiranto's authority - insisted that it remain in charge of security.

Human rights groups say hundreds of people died before and after the referendum at the hands of anti-independence militias, which, they say, had the support of the Indonesian military.

Calm was only restored to East Timor with the deployment of international peacekeepers and the withdrawal of Indonesian troops weeks later.

Mr. Wiranto was called as a witness in the trial of Police General Timbul Silaen - who is charged with crimes against humanity for failing to prevent the violence from taking place.

General Silaen is the highest-ranking officer put on trial since Indonesia's specially-formed human rights court began hearing cases last month.

Human rights groups are angry that Wiranto himself is not on trial. His name is not among the 18 that Indonesia's Attorney General's office lists as suspects in orchestrating the militia rampage.