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US lifts ban on Indonesia's army unit Kopassus.

The United states has decided to lift a ban on Indonesia's Kopassus, a special army unit that was engaged by the Suharto regime to pursue rebels in East Timor, Papua and Aceh regions.

The decision to revoke the decade-old ban was announced by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on Thursday, after a meeting with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in Jakarta. "These initial steps will take place within the limits of U.S. law and do not signal any lessening of the importance we place on human rights and accountability," he defended the move.

But reports say Washington was actually worried over Indonesia's recent moves to explore closer military ties with China.

The Patrick Law of the United States bars providing any training to military units that have a record of human rights abuse.

The name Kopassus became anonymous with state torture during the Suharto regime in the 1990s. Xanana Gusmao, the president of East Timor that became independent from Indonesia in 2002, once called a rebel soldier as "kopassus old guard" since he was bent upon spreading violence in the tiny nation.

Even Jose Ramos Horta, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and also leader of the East Timor resistance, expressed apprehensions that the so-called pro-Indonesian Timorese militiamen were members of Kopassus in disguise.

The unit's atrocities and human rights violations towards the end of Suharto's regime came under severe scrutiny when 23 critics of the government "disappeared". While nine of them returned to reveal the kind of torture, one was apparently killed and 13 were still listed in the missing category.

A probe later established that the Kopassus command had issued orders to "uncover several movements then considered radical and jeopardizing government programs and public security" and in April 1999, a military court found 11 of its men guilty of abducting nine pro-democracy activists and sentenced them to 22 months jail term, said a report by Globalsecurity.org.

With its headquarters in Cijantung, East Jakarta, Kopassus was known for its for its commando-style training and functioning. When the Garuda Airline plane Woyla was hijacked in 1981 by followers of Imran, leader of an Islamic splinter movement in West Java, Kopassus troops were sent to Thailand to free the passengers and again they were instrumental in freeing hostages in 1996 from the rebel group Irian Jaya.

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Publication:International Business Times - US ed.
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 23, 2010
Words:386
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