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Indonesia Responds to Criticism on Convictions - 2004-08-10


Indonesia has struck back at critics of a court decision to annul the sentences of four members of the security forces convicted of abuses during East Timor's vote for independence five years ago. But the Indonesians say they may be willing to look at new ways to close the bloody episode.

Washington was the latest to criticize the Indonesian court's decision to acquit the four officers, with a State Department spokesman saying the Bush administration was "profoundly disappointed."

But the spokesman for the Indonesian foreign ministry, Marty Natalegawa, said Tuesday that such criticism was premature. He said the judicial process was not finished, adding that Jakarta would be willing to consider some kind of truth and reconciliation commission similar to South Africa's at the end of apartheid.

"Something we have heard and thought out loud about is this notion of a truth and reconciliation commission type of set up, but even on that issue we have not made a decision as yet," said Mr. Natalegawa.

More than one-thousand people died during East Timor's 1999 vote for independence from Indonesia. Most of them were victims of pro-Jakarta militias and their sponsors in the military. But the Indonesian courts found only six people guilty, and now the appeals court has freed four of them.

Human rights groups have renewed calls for an international tribunal to bring those guilty to justice, but both Indonesia and East Timor have rejected the proposal.

East Timor's government had tentatively suggested forming a truth and reconciliation commission. East Timor's government is reluctant to push Indonesia, taking the view that in the long term, good relations with its giant neighbor are more important than putting a few men behind bars.

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