Dili massacre survivors face death penalty

March 11, 1992

By Norm Dixon

The Suharto regime in Indonesia has announced that several Timorese detained in the aftermath of the November 12 massacre in Dili are to stand trial for subversion in coming weeks.

While some of these survivors of the massacre face the death penalty, soldiers directly responsible are to be given only token penalties. The leaders whose policy of repression the military was implementing remain untouched and untouchable.

Gregorio da Cunha Saldanha and Francisco Miranda Branco are to be charged with subversion, which carries a maximum penalty of death. Six other East Timorese will be tried on lesser charges. Police said Da Cunha Saldanha led the procession to Santa Cruz cemetery in the East Timor capital. The marchers were mourning the death of a Timorese youth killed by the security forces earlier in the month.

Two other East Timorese students, arrested during a demonstration in Jakarta a week after the massacre, will also face subversion trials. Three others are to tried on charges of "publicly expressing enmity, hate or insult towards the lawful government", which can result in seven years jail.

The demonstration, initiated by the "Movement of East Timorese Nationalist Students in Indonesia", called on the United Nations to pressure Indonesia to agree to a process of self-determination. Seventy students were arrested at the demonstration.

On February 27, Indonesian chief of staff General Edy Sudradjat announced remarkably light punishments for six officers involved in the massacre of as many 180 peaceful mourners. The Indonesian authorities have admitted to the deaths of 50. Six "supervising officers" were to be punished — three are to be discharged from the military, two would "no longer be assigned to positions with the armed forces structure", and the other would be "temporarily removed from any position within the established army-armed forces structure". Eight other soldiers would be court-martialled.

The Indonesian Human Rights Campaign, TAPOL, reports that scores of East Timorese have been arrested in the weeks prior to the planned arrival of the "peace boat" from Portugal. Many have been detained for holding clandestine meetings to welcome the mission.

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