Subject: Age: 'Brave patriot' Guterres expects release in days

The Age [Melbourne] Friday 13 October 2000

'Brave patriot' Guterres expects release in days


Eurico Guterres, the swaggering militia leader, promptly answers his mobile telephone. "I'm still in jail and in fine condition," he said yesterday.

The United Nations accuses Mr Guterres of having committed crimes against humanity in East Timor but he is no ordinary Indonesian prisoner.

Since being arrested last week and held at Jakarta's police headquarters, he has been feted as a national hero. In a snub to the UN and foreign countries, including Australia, which are demanding he be brought to justice, Mr Guterres' release appears imminent.

Attorney-General Marzuki Darusman, after raising the matter with President Abdurrahman Wahid, said Indonesia would reject a UN request to extradite Mr Guterres to Dili over two East Timor massacres.

"If the UN wants to question Guterres they must do it in Jakarta," Mr Darusman said.

The decision appears to defy an agreement Mr Wahid's administration signed with the UN promising the country would cooperate to allow Indonesians or East Timorese accused of offences to be put on trial where alleged crimes took place.

National police chief General Suroyo Bimantoro was quoted by his spokesman as saying yesterday it was "very possible" Mr Guterres' detention on firearm charges would be revoked any day.

Like some of Indonesia's top politicians, the spokesman's praise of Mr Guterres, 27, is effusive. Mr Guterres, he said, had "rendered a service for the state".

Earlier Amien Rais, the chairman of the People's Consultative Assembly, the top legislature, said he regretted Mr Guterres' detention. He had "lost his homeland, so now he is our friend", Dr Rais said.

On Wednesday six influential members of parliament's foreign affairs, defence and politics committee visited Mr Guterres in jail. Committee chairman Yasril Ananta Baharuddin said the MPs regarded Mr Guterres as a "brave patriot".

Speaking in his personal capacity, Mr Yasril said he was disappointed because the government appeared to be ignoring what Mr Guterres and his men had done for the country.

Mr Guterres has had many visitors to the jail, including his 10 lawyers, and has held a packed press conference. He became emotional when 50 of his militia turned up.

"I am not crying because I have been arrested," Mr Guterres said after the supporters handed him a red and white headband, the colour of Indonesia's flag, which they had dabbed with their blood to show their support.

"I cry because up until this moment the Indonesian Government does not recognise our struggle.

"Indonesia is a big nation but in the end I realise that Indonesia is small in courage."

One of his supporters, Juanico Cesario, threatened to reveal the Indonesian military and police roles in a "scorched earth" policy that was carried out by the militias in East Timor unless Mr Guterres was released.

Militiamen in East Timor made a similar threat to two Indonesian ministers visiting West Timor last weekend.

Mr Guterres told The Age that police had told him they would deal with his request to be released after Attorney-General prosecutors had questioned him.

"I expect they will come up with a decision and release me in the next two or three days," he said.

Asked about UN warrants issued for his arrest, Mr Guterres said: "I'm an Indonesian citizen. The UN's summons is big nonsense. Why do they want to mess with other people's business? The East Timor Government, the UN, should mind their own business. They have better things to do such as the development of East Timor rather than messing with me."

Mr Guterres said if the Indonesian Government buckled to the UN demands the country would "only disgrace their own dignity".

The Attorney-General prosecutors are questioning Mr Guterres over the killing of 12 people in April last year at the Dili home of independence leader Manuel Carrascalao. Television footage shows Mr Guterres ordering his militiamen to if necessary "capture and kill" members of the Carrascalao family.

The UN has also accused Mr Guterres of involvement in an attack on a church on the coastal town of Liquica where militiamen killed at least 60 people.

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