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Officer faces jail, dismissal for torture-killings

Agence France Presse - January 17, 1999 (abridged)

Jakarta – An Indonesian army major being court martialed for the torture of Aceh villagers during which four died faces four years in jail and dismissal from the army, the military police said Sunday.

"During the trial this morning, the military prosecution read out its demand that the defendant be jailed four years and incur the additional punishment of dismissal," an officer on duty at the Aceh military police headquarters said by telephone.

The officer, who spoke from Banda Aceh the capital of the troubled province and declined to identify himself, said the second day of the trial Sunday had gone without a hitch. "Now it is adjourned and will be resumed at 4:00pm," the officer said.

He was refering to the court martial of infantry Major Bayu Najib, 40, charged with the torture of Aceh villagers leading to the deaths of four. Earlier Private Suradi from the same military police headquarters said attendance was thin as the trial started at 8:00 a.m.

Najib is the former executive commander of Infantry Battalion 113, based in Bireun, some 240 kilometres east of Banda Aceh. He and other troopers allegedly tortured about 40 villagers detained in a building belonging to a youth organization in Lhokeumawe, some 60 kilometres further east of Bireun. Four of the detainees died and 20 others were hospitalized for serious injuries.

At the opening of his trial on Saturday Najib was accused with two crimes under the criminal code – violence against another person and torture. The charges carry up to 12 years in jail. The trial of another four privates who were under Najib's command, which opened separately at the same building on Saturday, did not resume Sunday, Suradi said.

The five soldiers, including Najib, were among 27 soldiers so far suspected of involvement in the attack and violence against the detainees. Military authorities have said they will all face court martials.

The tortured detainees were arrested during anti-rebel raids intended to capture the alleged leader of a separatist group and to find two soldiers believed to have been kidnapped by rebels. The military operation followed the killing of seven Indonesian soldiers and the abduction of two officers late in December. The 22 other soldiers also believed to be implicated in the attack are still being detained in Lhokseumawe.

A source in the military said the court martials were expected to reach a verdict on Monday, before the Eid al-Fitr Moslem holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.