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Former Indonesian Military Chief Denies Rights Abuses in East Timor

The former head of the Indonesian army, General Wiranto, has told investigators there were no systematic human rights abuses by the Indonesian military following East Timor's referendum in 1999. Chad Bouchard reports for VOA from Jakarta.

Retired Indonesian army general Wiranto told the Commission on Truth and Friendship that he should not be held responsible for the violence and widespread arson in East Timor in 1999 that killed hundreds of people.

East Timor and Indonesia established the commission to investigate alleged human rights abuses.

Wiranto was Indonesia's defense minister at the time.

He said the violence should not be blamed on Indonesia's military, and that the outbreak was an extension of a civil war that goes back to 1974.

General Wiranto says the acts of violence should be considered ordinary crimes, not blamed on a policy of human rights abuse. He adds that it is normal for a few rogue military units to go outside their orders during a conflict, such as in other parts of Indonesia, or in Iraq and other conflict areas.

The former defense chief said individual soldiers who committed acts of violence should be prosecuted under the law.

But General Wiranto said he should not take legal responsibility for illegal acts that were committed outside military authority.

He says he should not be blamed for the violence, but he takes moral responsibility for what happened, which is why he resigned as minister of defense.

Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975, and an estimated 200,000 people died during the 24-year occupation. Jakarta denies any wrongdoing.

Wiranto testified during the commission's third round of hearings.

The group has an equal number of Indonesian and East Timorese members, and was established to avoid a U.N. war crimes tribunal at The Hague.

The commission is expected to issue a recommendation, but does not have the power to prosecute individuals.