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Indonesian General on Trial For East Timor Atrocities - 2002-07-10


An Indonesian general is on trial for human-rights abuses during the East Timor independence vote in 1999. Major-General Adam Damiri said he is not responsible for the damage and death in the province.

The former commander of troops in East Timor is accused of not preventing his soldiers from killing 153 East Timorese pro-independence supporters.

Major-General Adam Damiri is the highest-ranking military officer to be indicted in the killings in East Timor. During the weeks surrounding East Timor's 1999 independence vote, pro-Jakarta militias, allegedly aided by the military, went on a rampage that led to the deaths of hundreds of Timorese. The province voted overwhelmingly to end more than 20-years of Indonesian rule.

Seventeen other officers and government officials have been charged with crimes against humanity for the rampage.

The court prosecutor said General Damiri should have known that his troops launched a campaign of terror in East Timor. The general said he is innocent, because he was not in the territory at the time.

Lieutenant-General Agus Widjojo is the Indonesian Army chief of staff for Territorial Affairs. He said he thinks some military defendants could be convicted by the human-rights tribunal, but he said none of the crimes were planned. "Legally, not necessarily General Adam will be convicted, but maybe some of the other officers legally, they can be proved to be acting wrongly. Again, I think you have to see it in the context that it was not by design and it was not intended," Mr. Widjojo said.

General Damiri faces the death penalty for failing to control the rampage. He also is charged with failing to prevent torture, a charge punishable with up to 20-years' imprisonment.

Human rights groups argue Jakarta's special human rights court is not serious about punishing those responsible for crimes in East Timor.

The rampage was so brutal the United Nations came in to enforce peace and administer East Timor. The country gained formal independence from U.N. administration in May.

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