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3 Indonesia Officials Go on Trial

June 19, 2002

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JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) _ Sitting silently in a packed courtroom, two current and one former Indonesian official listened Wednesday as prosecutors accused them of allowing a mob to kill refugees hiding in an East Timor church in 1999.

The three _ a military commander, a police commander and district head in the East Timor town of Liquica _ are charged with crimes against humanity for failing to prevent the April 6, 1999 massacre in which at least 22 people were killed. Unofficial estimates put the number at more than 200.

The defendants are among 25 Indonesian officials charged with crimes against humanity for failing to stop at least five massacres in the province before and after voters approved an independence referendum in September 1999.

As many as 1,000 people were killed across East Timor in the violence. The killings stopped when international peacekeepers arrived.

Indonesian Army Lt. Col. Asep Kuswani, Police Lt. Col. Adios Salova and former district head Leonita Martins answered yes when asked by the judge if they were ready to hear the indictment. The courtroom was filled with their supporters, including 20 officers in uniform.

Kuswani and Salova are still on active duty in Indonesia while Martins lives in a refugee camp in West Timor. On Wednesday, Kuswani denied the charges against him. The other two have not yet commented publicly.

The church massacre in Liquica is typical of what rights activists say occurred across the province.

A militia group opposed to independence burned scores of homes and attacked pro-independence leaders in Liquica before massing outside the town’s main church.

With about 2,000 residents hiding inside, the militiamen starting shooting into the air, prosecutors said. They then rushed into the church, stabbing and shooting terrified residents as they tried to escape, they said.

Kuswani, Salova and Martins knew the militia were preparing to attack the church and that some of their subordinates were taking part in the attack, prosecutors said. They accused the officials of doing nothing to prevent the attack.

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