Subject: Trial Of 10 Pro-Indonesian Militiamen Begins In Timor Court

Associated Press February 16, 2001

Trial Of 10 Pro-Indonesian Militiamen Begins In Timor Crt

DILI, East Timor (AP)--The trial of 10 pro-Indonesian militiamen charged with the murder of church workers and a journalist in September 1999 opened in the Dili district court Friday.

The trial is the second case of crimes against humanity to be heard in East Timor. A militiaman was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment last month after pleading guilty for murder.

The accused, all members of the Team Alpha paramilitary gang, are charged with killing 12 people - including three priests and two nuns - near the eastern town of Los Palos.

An 11th suspect, Indonesian special forces Lt. Syaful Anwar, is still at large in Indonesia.

Anwar is the first Indonesian officer to be indicted for crimes against humanity in East Timor and an international warrant has been issued for his arrest. The government in Jakarta has refused to extradite him.

As the trial opened, attorney Cancio Xavier argued the case shouldn't continue without the presence of Indonesian military commanders who masterminded the killings.

"My clients are merely the small fish who were exploited by military leaders," he said.

Following a U.N.-sponsored independence referendum in August 1999, pro-Jakarta militiamen backed by the Indonesian army rampaged through East Timor. Hundreds of civilians died and over 80% of the country's infrastructure was destroyed.

The 10 militiamen are accused of ambushing a van with seven church workers and Indonesian journalist Agus Muliawan on Sept. 25, 1999, five days after the arrival of an international peacekeeping force in East Timor.

Muliawan, who worked for Tokyo-based Asia Press International, was working on a television documentary.

According to the indictment, the militiamen set up a road block and opened fire on the church workers, who were on a mercy mission to deliver food and medicines to refugees. They killed some of the victims and wounded others.

As survivors tried to escape, the gang attacked them with machetes. A nun who had survived the initial assault was cut down as she prayed by the side of the road. A teen-age seminary student was tied to a tree and slashed to death.

The dead included a 69-year-old Italian nun, Ermina Cazzaniga, who had been in East Timor for 30 years.

The group is also charged with murdering three men in separate incidents. Lt. Anwar is accused of leading all the attacks.

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