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Jail terms sought over torture-killings

Agence France Presse - January 29, 1999

Jakarta – A military prosecutor Friday sought years of jail and dismissal from the armed forces for four soldiers charged with the fatal torturing of villagers under military detention in the troubled Indonesian province of Aceh, a report said.

Lieutenant Colonel Aris Sujarwadi, speaking at the court martial in Banda Aceh, the main city of Aceh province, sought seven years jail and dismissal from the forces for each of the four defendants, all army privates, the Antara news agency said.

Sujarwadi said that based on the witnesses' testimony and evidence, the four defendants were guilty of torturing civilians under military detention, five of whom died. The charges carry up to 12 years of jail.

The torture, in which at least 23 other soldiers had taken part had led to the death of five of the civilian detainees. Nineteen others were hospitalized. Witnesses have said the defendants and other soldiers tortured about 40 villagers detained in a building belonging to a youth organization in Lhokseumawe, 300 kilometers (185 miles) east of Banda Aceh earlier this month. One of the witnesses said up to 100 soldiers took part in the attack.

The prosecutor said the four had slapped, kicked, and hit the detainees with electrical cables and the butts of their rifles. He said the defendants' actions had sullied the image of the Indonesian armed forces in the eyes of society.

The four privates, identified as Amsir, 29, Muhun Harahap, 31, Manalom Simatupang, 26, and Effendi, 35, have already admitted to the court that they took part in the crime.

The villagers had been arrested during army raids to hunt down the alleged leader of a local separatist group, who the military believed to be holding two soldiers as hostages.

The raids followed the killing of seven soldiers and the abduction of two military officers late in December. Another 22 soldiers also believed to be implicated in the torture attack are still being detained in Lhokseumawe.

An infantry major, who was the acting commander of one of battalions whose members took part in the attack on the detention building, is facing four years of jail and dismissal from the forces. He is being tried by a separate military tribunal in Banda Aceh.

The Aceh Merdeka (Free Aceh) movement has been fighting for an independent Islamic state in Aceh since the mid-1970s. Antara did not say when the court will resume the trial of the four soldiers.