Sweden drops investigation of Aceh rebel leaders in exile

(AFP) A Swedish prosecutor on Friday dropped a preliminary investigation of two exiled leaders of Aceh's rebel group GAM, saying there was no evidence they helped plan "terrorist" attacks in Indonesia.

Jakarta has repeatedly accused the self-styled “prime minister” of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), Malik Mahmud, and “foreign minister” Zaini Abdullah of orchestrating “terrorist” attacks such as murders, arson and kidnappings in

Aceh from their base in Stockholm where they are exiled.

Indonesia has in recent years urged Swedish authorities to take action against the exiled leadership.

But chief prosecutor Tomas Lindstrand said in his ruling that “it cannot be proven that Mahmud or Abdullah planned, ordered or in any way acted as accessories to the criminal acts concerning which the preliminary investigation was launched.”

He added that neither could they “have anticipated the crimes but neglected to prevent them.”

“The interrogations with Abdullah and Mahmud have shown that they lead GAM, but that the commander-in-chief and local commanders most often act on their own initiative while the leadership lays down general outlines,” he said.

“The persons interrogated in Indonesia have not provided a clear and unambiguous picture of the possible role of the Sweden-based leadership in the crimes perpetrated in Indonesia,” he added.

Among the crimes which Indonesia claimed GAM staged were a September 2000 attack on the Jakarta Stock Exchange, two murders and six school arsons, as well as the kidnapping of 243 people from December 2003 to February 2004.

In June 2004, the prosecutor raided the homes of Abdullah and Mahmud, as well as that of a third person, the aging co-founder and longtime GAM leader Hasan di Tiro, as part of the preliminary investigation.

But he closed the case against Di Tiro a month later, citing his ailing health.

GAM has been fighting since 1976 for the independence of Aceh province, located in northern Sumatra, which has a population of 4.2 million and large oil and natural gas reserves. The conflict has left more than 12,000 people dead.

Representatives of GAM and the Indonesian government have in recent months held talks in Helsinki aimed at ending the conflict.