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Indonesia: East Timor violence suspect to be named soon
February 16, 2000
JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Indonesian Attorney General Marzuki Darusman said Tuesday he will name within weeks a military officer as a suspect in the mass violence that followed last year's independence vote in East Timor.
"We hope that in two or three weeks there will be an officer who becomes a suspect," Darusman told a local television station. He is investigating two recent reports which linked Gen. Wiranto, then the military's commander, to the mass violence. It could take months before his report is completed.
On Monday, President Abdurrahman Wahid suspended Wiranto from the powerful security and political affairs Cabinet portfolio pending Darusman's investigation. Surjadi Sudirdja was sworn in as the interim minister. The move ended a two-week standoff between the Wahid and Wiranto, in which Wahid asked Wiranto several times to resign.
Hundreds of people were reportedly killed, and anti- independence forces allegedly devastated much of East Timor after the region voted August 30 to secede from Indonesia. Indonesian soldiers have been accused of participating in the violence, and of not stopping the bloodshed.
Annan says judicial process needed
Indonesia has faced international pressure in recent weeks to bring to trial those responsible for that bloodshed. United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in Jakarta for talks with the nation's leaders, praised Indonesia for its handling of the issue.
"I'm very pleased that Indonesia has taken on the responsibilities to ensure that those responsible for the atrocities in East Timor will be made accountable," he said Tuesday. "What is important is that we engage in a judicial process."
Indonesia's Investigative Commission of Human Rights Abuses in East Timor concluded in its report released two weeks ago that Wiranto was "morally responsible" for the violence and looting in East Timor.
The commission also suggested Wiranto and 30-plus others should be investigated further for their alleged roles in that violence. U.N. investigators also concluded in a report released the same day that Wiranto was responsible for the bloodshed. Wiranto has denied the reports' findings, and has said rogue soldiers may have committed the violence.
Wiranto told reporters Monday that he was "sad, disappointed" by Wahid's decision to suspend him, and added he had not been defying the president's resignation demands, rather he wanted Wahid to have all the facts before making a decision.
Wahid: Wiranto presumed innocent
Wahid said prior to Sudirdja's swearing in that Wiranto would be presumed innocent until proven guilty, and that he had been suspended, not fired, so he could concentrate on Darusman's investigation.
The president's comments prompted speculation that Wiranto -- if found not guilty during a possible trial, or if no criminal action is brought against him -- could return to Cabinet.
Human rights groups and Indonesia's markets responded positively to Wahid's decision. The rupiah, for example, was stronger during Monday. However, analysts reportedly were split about whether the move strengthened or weakened the government.
Some analysts suggested Wahid's decision was a shift in policy. On Sunday, reports said Wahid was willing to let Wiranto remain in Cabinet pending the attorney general's investigation.
Indonesian defense minister asks Wiranto to resign
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