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Last Updated: Friday, 5 November, 2004, 08:40 GMT
Ex-East Timor governor acquitted
Former governor of East Timor Abilio Soares
Abilio Soares says he was made a scapegoat
The only person to go to jail in Indonesia for the 1999 violence in East Timor has been cleared on appeal.

Abilio Soares, governor of the then-Indonesian province, had been found guilty of crimes against humanity.

But Indonesia's Supreme Court has ruled that because the military was in charge at the time, Mr Soares, a civilian, could not be responsible.

Around 1,000 people died during East Timor's transition to independence, many killed by pro-Jakarta militias.

This decision shows that the Indonesian government is protecting its ex-officials and that the culture of impunity still exists
Jose Luis Oliveira, rights activist
Of the 18 people put on trial by Indonesia's human rights tribunal over the violence, all but one have now been acquitted, although some cases are still the subject of appeals.

Soares was convicted in 2002 of failing to prevent the bloodshed which wracked the territory before, during, and after its vote to become independent of Indonesia. Many were killed by pro-Jakarta militias.

Soares only began serving his three-year sentence in July, but he could now be free within days.

An ethnic Timorese, Soares has long maintained that he was being made a scapegoat while military commanders walked free.

Anger

But East Timorese rights activists were angered by Soares' release.

INDONESIA'S EAST TIMOR TRIALS
Adam Damiri, military commander - acquitted
Timbul Silaen, police chief - acquitted
Colonel Nur Muis, ex-military leader - acquitted
Hulman Gultom, former police commissioner - acquitted
Security forces personnel Soejarwo, Asep Kuswani, Adios Salova, Leoneto Martins, Endar Priyanto, Herman Sedyono, Liliek Kusardiyanto Ahmad Syamsudin, Sugito, Gatot Subiaktoro, Tono Suratman, Letkol Soedjarwo - acquitted
Abilio Soares, former governor - jailed but then acquitted
Eurico Guterres, militia leader - appealing jail sentence

"This decision shows that the Indonesian government is protecting its ex-officials and that the culture of impunity still exists," said Jose Luis Oliveira, head of rights organisation Yayasan Hak.

"Soares joined with the military in forming the militias that killed the independence activists," he said.

The tribunal has been widely criticised by human rights groups and foreign governments but the government of East Timor has downplayed the importance of the tribunals, arguing that good relations with Jakarta should take priority over justice.

However, Indonesia's Foreign Minister, Hassan Wirayuda, acknowledged that the verdict would increase international criticism of Jakarta.

"This decision against Soares will add to the arguments for those who are questioning the credibility of the legal process in Indonesia," he said.

The only person whose conviction still stands is Eurico Guterres, a notorious militia leader. He is still free pending appeal.

The BBC's correspondent in Jakarta, Rachel Harvey, says that the most senior military leaders implicated in the violence were never even indicted.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Calls for an international tribunal increase



SEE ALSO:
US 'dismayed' at E Timor tribunal
10 Aug 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Jakarta rejects Timor convictions
06 Aug 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Ex-Timor governor starts sentence
17 Jul 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Timeline: East Timor
13 Nov 03  |  Country profiles
Country profile: East Timor
13 Nov 03  |  Country profiles


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