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General Sentenced for Role in East Timor

March 13, 2003|From Associated Press

JAKARTA, Indonesia — An Indonesian general convicted of failing to prevent attacks that killed at least 42 civilians during East Timor's break with Indonesia was sentenced Wednesday to five years in jail.

Brig. Gen. Noer Muis is among 18 Indonesian officials and militiamen tried over the violence that erupted before and after a U.N.-sponsored independence referendum on Aug. 30, 1999. He is the highest-ranking officer to be convicted.

A special human rights court in Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, set up in the aftermath of the violence, has acquitted 12 defendants, including the onetime military and police commanders of the former Portuguese colony.

Hundreds of civilians are believed to have been killed and 250,000 others were forced to flee their homes after Indonesian troops and their militia proxies launched a campaign of terror aimed at forcing people to vote for continued union with Jakarta.

Muis, who was Indonesia's last military commander in East Timor, was found guilty of allowing pro-Jakarta militias in the town of Suai to attack a church, where they killed 27 people on Sept. 6, 1999.

On the same day, Muis stood by as hundreds of pro-Jakarta militiamen and police invaded the home of Roman Catholic Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo, the court said. At least 15 civilians died in that attack.

"The defendant did not kill anyone but he failed to prevent and stop the attacks," Justice Adriani Nurdin said. "The defendant's action has resulted in many victims and has created a negative image of Indonesia in the eyes of the world."

Muis has consistently denied wrongdoing and said he would appeal.

"The judges felt happy to be able to convict a general even though the decision was not supported by the facts that were disclosed in the court," he said as his wife hugged him.

"I reject this decision. I have my rights."

Like most of the officers on trial, Muis remains in service.

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