Jakarta firm over use of Hawks in Aceh

Indonesia fought a diplomatic offensive on Tuesday while police hunted for exiled leaders and suspected supporters of Aceh separatists closer to home.

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    Jakarta rejected an allegation that using British supplied Hawk aircraft in Aceh was a violation of a previous agreement not to use the planes for offensive purposes.

    Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda stated that “whatever is being carried out in the Aceh operation is not an offensive action”.

    Indonesia purchased 24 of the jets, which can also be used for combat, from Britain in the 1990s.
      
    Jakarta also announced how it intends to deal with Stockholm’s failure to hand over a leading Aceh separatist.

    It said it will send a team to Sweden this week to persuade the government to extradite the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) founder – Hassan Tiro.

    In Aceh itself, martial law administrator Major General Endang Suwarya has denied requests from about 10 foreign-based journalists wishing to cover the conflict.
      
    Suwarya said he did not need "foreign observers" in the northern region of Sumatra. "We are capable of overcoming the problem here by ourselves," he said, according to the Kompas daily newspaper.

    Seeking out seperatists

    Meanwhile, three police officers are in Thailand co-ordinating with police there in the hunt for a senior GAM member, police spokesman Zainuri Lubis said.

    Lubis described Zakaria Zaman bin Kaman as the movement's "defence minister," responsible for smuggling weapons to Aceh from Thailand, and added: "We hope for a good outcome."

    In the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, police said students and other activists who support the separatist fighters would face subversion charges that can carry the death penalty. 
      

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    "We will use the (criminal code) article on subversion, which carries up to the death sentence, against them," said Sayed Husaini, police spokesman in the province.

    A major military assault against GAM is into its third week in the province. 
      
    Husaini said police have a sizeable wanted list of activists who support or assist GAM and also have evidence against them.
      
    Many are from the Ar-Raniry State Institute for Religious Sciences in Banda Aceh or members of non-governmental organisations, he added. 
         
    Admission

    Earlier, six Indonesian Army soldiers and one officer were charged with beating villagers in Lawang, near Bireun, the first time Indonesia’s military has acknowledged its troops may have committed human rights violations.

    Since the conflict began on 19 May, there have been mounting concerns for the safety of Aceh's 4.3 million civilian population.

    Up to 40,000 police and soldiers are confronting an estimated 5,000 rebels in Aceh in Indonesia's biggest military operation for a quarter of a century, with the army already claiming to have killed over 100 separatists.
     
    More than 21,000 people are reported to have fled their homes as a result of the violence, especially in eastern areas which have been experiencing intense gunfights almost every day.


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