Subject: GU: Timorese warlord held as militias lose grip

Also: Amien Rais Regrets Millitia Leader's Arrest, Calls Him a Friend of Indonesia

Guardian (UK) Timorese warlord held as militias lose grip

John Aglionby in Jakarta Thursday October 5, 2000

The most notorious of East Timor's militia leaders was arrested yesterday on suspicion of being involved in the sacking of a UN refugee agency office in West Timor last month during which three members of staff were hacked to death.

The national police chief, General Suroyo Bimantoro, accused Eurico Guterres of refusing to hand over weapons and instructing hundreds of his men to take back guns they had surrendered to the police in the town of Atambua, near the border with East Timor.

The move coincides with UN reports that the militias' grip on the approximately 130,000 East Timorese refugees in West Timor is starting to weaken in some camps and that hundreds of refugees have returned to their homeland in the last couple of weeks.

Mr Guterres was picked up at a Jakarta hotel and questioned for more than seven hours at the police headquarters. His lawyer, Suhardi Sumomulyono, said the arrest was not legal because the officers had no warrant and the charges were extremely unclear. If convicted, his client faces six years imprisonment.

A police senior superintendent, Saleh Saaf, said: "Eurico Guterres was arrested after there was enough evidence for him to become a suspect in the destruction and burning of the UNHCR office in Atambua."

He did not say if Mr Guterres was also suspected of the murder of the three employees of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Gen Bimantoro said Mr Guterres's detention was not linked to his being named earlier this week as a suspect for atrocities committed in East Timor last year. "The East Timor investigation is still on-going," he said.

Since the UNHCR murders Indonesia has come under increasing international pressure to deal with the militias. All the international aid agencies have withdrawn from West Timor and are refusing to return until those responsible for the aid workers' deaths have been detained, the militias disarmed and disbanded and law and order restored, a spokesman for the UNHCR, Peter Kessler, said.

He said Mr Guterres's arrest was "a step forward", but added: "Right now we're only seeing baby steps [from the Indonesian authorities]. We have a long way to go before the refugees can be considered free and in a position to make up their own minds whether to return to East Timor."

The United States, Britain and the World Bank have threatened to suspend aid to Jakarta if the problems in West Timor are not resolved in the next few months.

Jakarta's attempts to disarm the militias, which want East Timor returned to Indonesian rule, have so far proved a relative failure. Only a few dozen rifles and several hundred homemade firearms have been recovered.

Most of their weapons were given to them by the Indonesian military last year when they were trying to destabilise East Timor in the run-up to the self-determination referendum, which was won overwhelmingly by the independence side. It was after this vote that the militias rampaged through East Timor and drove more than 270,000 people into West Timor.

Mr Kessler said that the increasing number returning in the past few weeks showed that the militias' grip was slackening in some areas.

"In some areas the militias have withdrawn and the refugees are starting to pack up," he said. "In other areas they [the militias] are still taking roll calls every week and in some camps every day. They are forbidding movement, even to go shopping for food." end

Subject: Amien Rais Regrets Millitia Leader's Arrest, Calls Him a Friend of Indon

Top Indonesian legislator regrets militia leader's arrest

JAKARTA, Oct 5 (AFP) - The chairman of Indonesia's highest legislative body Amien Rais on Thursday expressed regret over the arrest of Timorese militia leader Eurico Guterres, calling him a friend of the country. Guterres had "lost his homeland, so now he is our friend," said Rais, who chairs the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), on the private Indosiar television network.

Guterres, the chief of the feared and formerly Dili-based Aitarak (Thorn) militia, was apprehended by police in a Jakarta hotel on Wednesday. Police said Guterres was guilty for having ordered his men to take back weapons they had surrendered during an arms handover ceremony in the border town of Atambua in West Timor on September 24.

Guterres, 27, known to have close ties with the Indonesian armed forces, could face a maximum of six years in prison if found guilty of inciting people to carry out crimes against the government.

The arrest of Guterres would set a bad example for "our brothers, for example in Papua," Rais said, in an obvious reference to Jakarta's efforts to woo separatists in Indonesia's Irian Jaya province.

Many local leaders in Irian Jaya, a mineral-rich province in eastern Indonesia, have been calling for an East Timor-style referendum for independence.

"Our brothers there could say, 'look at Guterres, not only did he fall down the stairs, he got slammed by cement blocks'," Rais said.

Earlier Thursday Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer called Guterres' arrest the first step in checking militia violence in East Timor.

"We are very pleased that Eurico Guterres has been arrested by the Indonesian authorities," Downer told reporters in Sydney.

"The Indonesians have been criticised a lot in recent times over activities in West Timor of one kind or another, and I think it's appropriate that the Australian government support the Indonesian government very openly when they do the right thing," Downer added.

Downplaying Guterres' arrest, Indonesia's lower house speaker Akbar Tanjung said quoted by the Detikcom online news service that the militia boss "must be arrested if he has broken the law."

But Tanjung also said he would appeal to prosecutors "not to give a heavy sentence (to Guterres) considering services given to Indonesia."

The Indonesian armed forces raised and trained the militias in East Timor during their 24-year occupation of the former Portuguese colony, and refer to them as "pro-integrationists."

The attorney general's office has also named Guterres among 22 people wanted as suspects in last year's atrocities in East Timor, when the territory voted overwhelmingly for independence.

Prosecutors charge that Guterres had a role in an attack on the refugee-packed house of East Timorese independence leader Manuel Carrascalao in April 1999 in which 12 people died, including a son of Carrascalao.

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