Lawyer: Slain Indonesians' kin want Dutch apology

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Ten relatives of Indonesian men allegedly killed by Dutch troops in their country's bloody struggle for independence demanded compensation and an apology Monday from the Netherlands.

A lawyer for the Indonesians said their relatives were summarily executed by Dutch forces in a series of massacres in villages in South Sulawesi province in 1947.

Lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld said more than 3,000 Indonesians were killed in three months during a Dutch crackdown intended to "cleanse" the province of pro-independence insurgents and that it is time for the Dutch government to acknowledge its actions.

It is not the first time Zegveld has represented widows and children of alleged massacres in Indonesia. Last year, she won a landmark case that prompted the government to apologize and compensate a group of widows.

Zegveld cited a Dutch commission of inquiry that in 1954 concluded that Dutch authorities "adopted the way of extra-statutory trial and execution" to stamp out the rebellion.

The full report of the commission was not immediately available. However, Dutch media have reported on such killings before.

No Dutch troops have ever been prosecuted in any of the alleged massacres, Zegveld said.

The foreign ministry confirmed it had received Zegveld's letter and said in a statement it was studying the claim.

In her letter, Zegveld alleges that one of the massacres took place in the village of Galung Lombok on Feb. 1, 1947. The letter claims that Dutch forces entered the village in the morning, ordered residents from their homes and then torched the houses before executing 364 people.

One of Zegveld's clients, Asia Sitti, was the daughter of the village elder and witnessed the killings. Sitti was 12 years old when her father was shot in front of her, Zegveld claimed.

In another village, Bulukumba, Zegveld alleged that up to 250 men were executed in January 1947, some shot while fleeing through rice fields, others while standing in front of a pit dug by villagers.

"The people were shot from behind so they fell into the hole," according to Zegveld's letter. "Most of them were farmers or fishermen."

Monday's demand comes months after Zegveld successfully sued the Dutch state in a similar case — a massacre on Indonesia's main island of Java, also during the independence war.

In that case, a court in The Hague ruled that Dutch forces were responsible for summarily executing up to 430 men in the village of Rawagedeh. After the judgment, Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal formally apologized to the relatives and agreed to pay compensation to widows.

Rosenthal said last year that the apology "does justice to the gravity of what happened in Rawagedeh."

Former Foreign Minister Ben Bot expressed deep regret for offenses by Dutch forces throughout Indonesia in 1947, but the government had never previously formally apologized to relatives in Rawagedeh.

Zegveld said that following the landmark Rawagedeh judgment, she now wants to sit down with Foreign Ministry officials to work out a plan for addressing similar cases.

"I see no reason to go to court. We can all predict what the court will say," she told The Associated Press.