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General denies E Timor violations

5 May 07 12:56 GMT

The former Indonesian military chief has told an investigation there were no gross violations of human rights ahead of East Timor's independence vote.

Gen Wiranto was appearing before the Truth and Friendship Commission in Indonesia's capital, Jakarta.

He denied any links to militia involved in violence that left more than 1,000 people dead and hundreds of thousands displaced in 1999.

The commission was set up two years ago to heal and to establish the truth.

It does not have the power to prosecute but can recommend amnesties for those who appear before it.

East Timor voted for independence from the country that had occupied it for 24 years.

'Ordinary crimes'

The BBC's Lucy Williamson, in Jakarta, says Gen Wiranto is the most senior military official to appear before the commission and the room was packed with those who had come to hear his testimony.

He told the panel of judges that what happened in East Timor was not a gross human rights violation but rather a collection of ordinary crimes.

He denied any responsibility for any crimes committed by those under his command, saying that each individual soldier should be held accountable for his or her actions.

"The ad hoc human rights court has spent time and energy and it was clearly proven that there were no gross violations of human rights," he said.

Gen Wiranto, who wants to be Indonesia's next president, said the violence remained after independence.

"The pattern was similar to 1999 and that prompted them to invite the UN police."

The general also criticised the UN for giving Indonesia responsibility for security for the independence referendum.

"We were placed in a very difficult position," he said.

Gen Wiranto said of the militias that sparked much of the violence: "They were not formed, nor funded, nor equipped by the military and there was no structural control of these groups."

The 10-member commission has sat in a number of cities listening to testimony.

But our correspondent says it has been criticised by some human rights groups for being a poor replacement for a judicial process.

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