Trial challenges occupation of East Timor


Jose Antonio Neves, East Timorese theology student and secretary of the student national resistance organisation RENETIL, was sentenced on February 15 by an Indonesian Court to four years' jail. He was arrested in the central Java city of Malang in May while sending faxes with information about East Timor human rights violations to human rights monitors overseas.

Neves was pronounced guilty of plotting the secession of East Timor from Indonesia and seeking support from exiles and human rights groups abroad. In his February 26 court statement, Neves called himself a citizen of East Timor by nationality and patriotic conscience, and a Portuguese citizen based on international law. He therefore rejected the judgment of the court and would not appeal to any Indonesian higher courts.

Neves appealed to the international community to pressure the Indonesian government to end all punishments against East Timor citizens in Indonesian prisons and to induce the Indonesian government to cooperate with the United Nations, Portugal and the East Timorese people to find a speedy and unequivocal definition for the political status of East Timor according to international law.

Neves' trial gave an opportunity to prominent Indonesian human rights lawyers defending him, such as Legal Aid Foundation lawyer Luhut Pangaribuan, to challenge openly the legality of the Indonesian annexation of East Timor. The defence team's rebuttal, read on October 19, argued that the National Council for Maubere Resistance (CNRM) and one of its components, RENETIL, are lawfully recognised in international law and by the government of Indonesia in a tripartite agreement with it and Portugal under UN auspices.

Their rebuttal recalls that territorial acquisitions by military force are illegal under international law, adding that such territories are the concern of the UN and continue having the right to self-determination. The juridical consequence of the acquisition of East Timor by force, in violation of international law, according to the defence lawyers, is that "the struggle of the people of East Timor for independence, for their own government — not under the Republic of Indonesia — as has been waged by the accused is justified according to international law".

The defence rebuttal noted that the independence struggle of the East Timorese people is organised by the CNRM, whose leader Xanana Gusmao in 1992 proposed a peace plan to resolve the conflict.

These unprecedented statements by Indonesian lawyers in an Indonesian court were followed on December 14 by a strong testimony presented by highly respected Indonesian academic Dr George Aditjondro. Aditjondro compared the struggle of the East Timorese with those of the Palestinians, Saharawis, Bosnians and anti-apartheid South Africans.

The prosecution's response contained little more than attacks on the personal integrity of the defence, accusing them of not being good patriots.
[Information provided by the CNRM media office.]

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