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Indonesian Presidential Visit to Timor Ends, Demonstrators Moved


Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has ended a controversial two-day visit to East Timor by laying a wreath at a cemetery where Indonesian troops killed hundreds of Timorese 14 years ago. The visit went smoothly, but, some would-be demonstrators say they were muzzled by police.

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's visit to East Timor, which ended Saturday, appears to have been a success. The two countries signed a treaty defining their disputed border, and relations seem warm and friendly.

But the visit was still controversial. Indonesia occupied East Timor for almost 25 years. And then, when the Timorese voted for independence in an UN-sponsored referendum six years ago, Jakarta-backed militias unleashed a wave of violence - killing an estimated 1,500 people and leaving the country in ruins.

Indonesia has failed to bring anyone to justice for the crimes committed around the 1999 vote. The governments of both East Timor and Indonesia have tried to downplay the problem, saying they want to look to the future of the relationship rather than dwell on the past.

On Saturday morning, as a gesture of reconciliation, President Yudhoyono visited the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili, where, in 1991, Indonesian troops opened fire on demonstrators gathered to honor a pro-independence activist. More than 200 people were killed.

But some East Timorese were not impressed with efforts to forgive and forget and turned out to protest at the cemetery, a site of huge symbolic importance to the Timorese.

Tomas Freitas, one of the protesters, says his group wants to remind President Yudhoyono of his responsibilities.

"The objective to have a banner there just to remind Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, we just want to remind him you have to resolve this justice," he said. "You don't have to leave all the people who committed these crimes. We just want him to resolve all of the problems in terms of the justice."

Police moved off protesters, before President Yudhoyono arrived and the demonstrators say their demands for justice are being silenced.

Indonesia did appoint a special tribunal, which tried 18 people for the crimes, but all but one have been acquitted.

East Timor also held trials, but justice was diverted in that many of suspects could not be extradited from Indonesia

So now, the United Nations has appointed a so-called Commission of Experts to examine attempts to bring to justice those responsible for the carnage. The three-person commission is currently visiting the Timorese capital, Dili.

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