Subject: Australia slams release of notorious East Timor militia leader

Australia slams release of East Timor militia leader

SYDNEY, June 7 (AFP) - Australia Thursday denounced a decision by Indonesian authorities to free a notorious East Timorese militia leader after he had served just 23 days of a six-month prison sentence.

Eurico Guterres, the leader of a vicious pro-Jakarta militia during East Timor's bloody seccession from Indonesia in 1999, had been sentenced to six months imprisonment for inciting violence in the neighbouring Indonesian province of West Timor.

However, after he was sentenced by an Indonesian court in April, Guterres served a total of just 23 days house detention in government-provided accommodation in Jakarta and walked free on May 23.

The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper described Guterres' sentence as a "sham" -- sentiments echoed by Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.

Guterres has been implicated in a number of atrocities in East Timor as pro-Jakarta militias, armed and trained by the Indonesian army, embarked upon a bloody, scorched-earth rampage after the East Timorese voted overwhelmingly for independence from Indonesian on August 30, 1999.

Since fleeing East Timor when UN peacekeepers arrived in force, Guterres has played a prominent role in the youth wing of Indonesian Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle.

Australian Foreign Minister Downer described attempts to bring Guterres to justice in Indonesia as "inadequate".

"Eurico Guterres has been a man deeply involved with militia activity in Timor," Downer told ABC radio.

"We are concerned that he has escaped with such light punishment for what he has done, and what the Indonesian system has found that he has done."

Guterres told the Sydney Morning Herald he intended to launch a political career in Indonesia. 


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