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Update On Yacobus Bere Trial

The New Zealand government continues to closely follow the trial in Jakarta of Yacobus Bere, who is accused of killing New Zealand peacekeeper, Private Leonard Manning in East Timor last year said Foreign Minister Phil Goff.

“New Zealand Embassy staff have been attending the trial which, consistent with the Indonesian practice, has been held one day a week since it started on 6 November.

“Diplomats from other countries have also been present, as has a sizable media contingent. The trial may continue for some time.

“The New Zealand government appreciates the efforts of Indonesian authorities in bringing the case to court. As this matter involves the killing of a UN peacekeeper, it is of great importance not only to New Zealand, but also to the international community, that those responsible are brought to justice. We will continue to monitor developments closely,” Mr Goff said.

A summary of court proceedings to date, as reported by the New Zealand Embassy staff in attendance is attached.

The trial of Yacobus Bere started on 6 November 2001 in the Central Jakarta District Court with the prosecutor reading out the indictment. The defendant was charged with both first degree and second degree murder. Under Indonesian law the maximum penalty for first degree murder is 20 years imprisonment or death. At the first trial session, Mr Bere’s defence team did not respond to the charges laid out by the prosecutor, but argued that certain aspects of the trial, such as the cost of bringing his lawyers to Jakarta from West Timor, were prejudicial to the defendant.

At the second trial session, on 13 November, the defence team submitted to the court that the indictment should be revoked on the grounds that:

- Mr Bere’s occupation had been wrongly stated as “farmer’. The defence claimed that he was a “freedom fighter’;

- Indonesia had no jurisdiction to try the case as the incident had occurred outside of Indonesia in the “disputed territory” of East Timor;

- The Central Jakarta District Court had no jurisdiction to hear the case as the defendant was part of a legitimate military organisation and therefore should be tried by a military court.

The defence also claimed that because East Timor was a “disputed territory at war” at the time of the killing of Private Manning the defendant should be tried by a military court.

The defendant also addressed the court to assert his status as an Indonesian patriot.

At the third trial session, on 20 September, the prosecutor responded to the defence team’s claims by submitting that:

- The indictment was correct in listing the defendant’s status as “farmer” as the defendant had signed the notes of an interview with Indonesian police investigators which recorded his occupation as “farmer”;

- Under the Indonesian Code of Criminal Procedure, the Republic of Indonesia asserts jurisdiction over criminal cases involving Indonesian citizens regardless of whether the crime was committed in Indonesia or overseas;

- The defence team’s assertion that the case should be heard by a military court was undermined by the defendant’s original testimony to police which claimed that he and his accomplices had been herding cattle at the time Private Manning was killed, which clearly made the killing a criminal act rather than an “act of war”.

The court is expected to resume tomorrow (27 November) to consider the prosecutor’s request that it reject the defence team’s objections, assert jurisdiction for hearing the case and agree that the indictment is acceptable and in accordance with all legal requirements.

Ends


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