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UN Prosecutors Indict Another Indonesian Official for Alleged East Timor Abuses


U.N. prosecutors working for an East Timor human rights court have issued another indictment this week against a high-ranking member of the Indonesian security forces. But East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao says bringing alleged war criminals to trial is not in East Timor's interest.

U.N. prosecutors in East Timor have issued their latest indictments - this time against Indonesian Police Brigadier General Timbul Silaen.

General Silaen -the former chief of police for East Timor - is accused of involvement in murder, inhumane acts and forced deportation of at least 25,000 people from East Timor into Indonesian-controlled West Timor.

He is the latest high-ranking Indonesian security forces officer to be charged with crimes against humanity this week by the U.N. Serious Crimes unit, which operates under the management of East Timor's human rights court. On Tuesday, prosecutors indicted former Indonesian defense minister, General Wiranto, for helping establish anti-independence militia groups and responsibility for the war crimes the militias committed while under military command.

Military-backed militias are believed to have killed hundreds of people in 1999 in an effort to prevent East Timor from breaking free of Indonesian rule.

More than 40 other people were also indicted Friday, including notorious militia leader Eurico Guterres, who has already been convicted in an Indonesian court for his role in the violence surrounding East Timor's 1999 vote for independence from Indonesia. The same Indonesia Court found General Silaen not guilty. Guterres remains free pending his appeal.

Prosecutors say arrest warrants and the indictments are being forwarded to Indonesia's Attorney General's office. All of those accused are believed to be living in Indonesia.

U.N. Prosecutor Stuart Alford said progress on the human rights cases now is out of prosecutors' hands. "There's little more that we can do here in East Timor," he said. "We've reached the limit of what we can do by completing the investigation and filing the indictment. We've got to look to people outside the prosecution office here to see what direction the further progress of this take can take."

It appears doubtful the U.N. court will get to move beyond indictments to trial. Indonesia's foreign minister this week said the East Timor human rights court has no jurisdiction over Indonesian officials and his government will take no action.

Indonesia has formed its own tribunal to try suspects charged with human rights abuses in East Timor. But the court has come under severe criticism by rights groups for failing to indict any senior officials, and for acquitting others. East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao also opposes some of the U.N. indictments. He told reporters that the charges filed against General Wiranto are regrettable and he will ask East Timor's Parliament about possibly having the charges dropped. President Gusmao has said he believes it is important for the East Timorese to put the past behind them, and to work with Indonesia to build strong relations.

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