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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 August, 2004, 10:50 GMT 11:50 UK
Jakarta clears officer of killings
Maj Gen Sriyanto
Maj Gen Sriyanto thanked the judges for their ruling
The head of Indonesia's special forces has been cleared of gross human rights violations over the 1984 killings of a crowd of Muslim activists.

Maj Gen Sriyanto Muntrasan was accused of telling soldiers to shoot into a crowd of demonstrators near Jakarta's Tanjung Priok port.

But a court in Jakarta ruled the incident was a "spontaneous clash", and therefore not a human rights violation.

He is the latest in a series of senior officers to be acquitted in such cases.

Maj Gen Sriyanto, who is now head of Indonesia's elite Kopassus special forces, was an army captain at the time of the 1984 demonstration.

The clash took place spontaneously between the people and (army) personnel
Herman Heller Hutapea, chief judge
Protesters at the rally were demanding the release of activists detained by the regime of former strongman Suharto.

Prosecutors said the troops opened fire on the crowd without warning, killing at least 10 people, and as many as 23.

But the trial's chief judge, Herman Heller Hutapea, said Maj Gen Sriyanto had tried to prevent the clash "by shouting 'stop' and 'stop shooting'".

"There was no proof of a systematic attack. The clash took place spontaneously between the people and (army) personnel," the judge said.

Maj Gen Sriyanto was acquitted on all charges and left court to a hero's welcome from his troops, waiting outside.

He thanked the panel of judges, who he said had been "very objective, rational and comprehensive in its explanation to free me".

The BBC's Tim Johnston, in Jakarta, says the so-called Tanjung Priok massacres have come to be seen as a litmus test of Indonesia's willingness to address the alleged crimes committed by the army during Suharto's 30-year rule.

While he was in power the army was above criticism, a dispensation that campaigners say was exploited to commit numerous human rights abuses.

Some of those incidents have recently come to court, but human rights activists have complained that the country's judicial institutions are not strong enough to see justice done.

Earlier this week, the same court acquitted the former head of Jakarta's military police on charges of failing to prevent the torture of activists during the 1984 incident.

Last week, the appeal court overturned the verdicts on four Indonesian security officials in connection with 1999 human rights violations in East Timor.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Tim Johnston
"Cases like this one show the military is still powerful enough to stifle criticism"



SEE ALSO:
US 'dismayed' at E Timor tribunal
10 Aug 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Jakarta rejects Timor convictions
06 Aug 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Indonesian general put on trial
23 Oct 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Jakarta tribunal on 1984 killings
15 Sep 03  |  Asia-Pacific
East Timor launches truth commission
21 Jan 02  |  Asia-Pacific
Rise and fall of strongman Suharto
28 Sep 00  |  Asia-Pacific


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