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Charges Against Indonesian General Withdrawn - 2003-06-05


An Indonesian prosecutor has withdrawn charges against a general accused of committing crimes against humanity in East Timor. The twist in the case against Major General Adam Damiri comes near the end of his trial before a special human rights court.

Prosecutor S. Hozie told judges at Indonesia's special human rights court Thursday that he does not have evidence to support the charges against Major General Adam Damiri.

General Damiri says the prosecutor's statement reflects the truth about the case.

The decision to withdraw the charges against General Damiri comes the same day the court was expected to announce its verdict.

The general was charged with failing to keep his subordinates from committing human rights abuses in East Timor while he was the regional military chief in command of the territory.

The charges relate to two massacres that took place at churches in 1999, and attacks on the homes of independence leaders.

Armed militia groups killed hundreds of people and destroyed much of East Timor in a frenzy of violence in 1999, in the months surrounding the territory's vote to declare independence from Indonesia.

Rights groups charge that the chaos was orchestrated by the Indonesian military, and that some soldiers may have also participated in the carnage.

The plan ultimately failed and East Timor is now an independent country.

The prosecutor's decision Thursday is likely to anger human rights groups, which allege that Indonesia's human rights court is a sham. Critics say the court's mandate is too narrow - because it only covers crimes committed during two months in 1999. They also say prosecutors failed to make use of evidence available to them to bring to trial more senior members of the Indonesian military.

General Damiri is the last of 18 military officials to face trial. Twelve other suspects have been acquitted. Of the five officials convicted, all are free from prison while their cases are appealed.

General Damiri had missed three earlier court dates, because of duties in Indonesia's separatist northern province of Aceh where last month the government imposed martial law.

Prosecutor Hozie did not explain why he asked for charges to be dropped instead of demanding the general be declared not guilty. But the trial is not over yet. Despite the prosecutor's request, the judges will decide whether the case is to continue on July 1.

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