- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 30, 2002

JAKARTA, Indonesia An Indonesian court acquitted two former military officials, a police chief and a government administrator yesterday on charges of crimes against humanity during East Timor's bloody break from Indonesia in 1999.

Three of the men army Lt. Col. Asep Kuswani, police Lt. Col. Adios Salova and district head Leonita Martins were cleared of charges of not preventing pro-Jakarta militias from attacking a church in the town of Liquica on April 6, 1999, and killing at least 22 persons.

The fourth man, Lt. Col. Endar Priyanto, was the army chief in East Timor's capital, Dili, when militiamen attacked the house of a prominent independence leader, killing 12 civilians. He was accused of not preventing that massacre.

In the latest acquittals, presiding Judge Cicut Sutiarso said that "there was no effective command relation between the defendants and the Besi Merah Putih militia group" that attacked the church.

Local and international human rights groups have described trials of those accused of violence in East Timor as a sham. The verdict yesterday is likely to reinforce that perception.

After the latest verdicts were read, a senior military commander hugged the three defendants, who smiled widely.

So far, seven Indonesian officers have been cleared of all charges. Only two of the accused, the province's former governor and a notorious militia leader sentenced Wednesday to 10 years in prison, have been found guilty. Both are East Timorese civilians.

"These are mock trials," said Mohammed Asrun, from Judicial Watch, a group that monitors Indonesia's judiciary. "This is a result of pressure from the military. The East Timorese are being made scapegoats for them."

The mounting stack of not-guilty verdicts could also complicate Washington's drive to renew ties with the Indonesian military, which were cut to protest the East Timor violence.

Cooperation with security forces in Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim nation, is considered essential in the campaign against terrorism in Southeast Asia. The Bush administration has demanded full accountability for the bloodshed before it re-engages with the military.

Col. Priyanto, who now works in the Ministry of Defense, has always maintained his innocence.

"From the beginning, I felt I had not violated any human rights," he told reporters after the verdict was read. "I was only doing my job in line with procedures."

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