5 August 2003

BBC | General found guilty over E Timor

A senior Indonesian general has been found guilty of failing to prevent violence during East Timor's independence vote.

Major-General Adam Damiri was sentenced to three years in jail by a special human rights court, for what Judge Marmi Mustafa described as "gross human rights violations".

General Damiri is the highest-ranking Indonesian to face the special tribunal, which was set up to investigate abuses committed during the 1999 independence vote, when more than 1,000 people died.

The verdict has surprised analysts, who widely expected that the general would be acquitted, since the prosecution itself had requested that the charges be dropped due to lack of evidence.

But Judge Emmy said: "The panel of judges does not share the opinion of the prosecutors who said the defendant was not guilty."

When the verdict was read out, General Damiri threw his arms in the air and shouted loudly.

"I feel very disappointed with this decision," he said afterwards, adding that he would appeal.

I'm astounded. In its previous cases this court had convicted junior officers and acquitted anyone senior. Damiri made himself famous when TNI rolled into Aceh by failing to appear for his trial over East Timor. The excuse he gave was urgent military duty in Aceh.

Whether Damiri is a sacrificial lamb that TNI has decided to throw to international opinion or the powers-that-be in Jakarta decided that reform is necessary remains to be seen. During the Indonesian occupation, human rights groups estimate that 1 in 4 East Timorese died at TNI's hands. 3 years does not seem a heavy sentence to expiate that.

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