Subject: SMH/E.Timor: War crimes defendant given special protection

Sydney Morning Herald July 27, 2001

War crimes defendant given special protection

Mark Dodd

The judge hearing East Timor's first trial for crimes against humanity has ordered special protection for a defendant who says he has received threats in jail after giving evidence in court.

Judge Marcelo Dolzany da Costa from Brazil ordered prison staff at the Becora jail to ensure special protective measures for Manuel da Costa, a former member of the pro-Indonesian Team Alpha militia.

In his evidence, da Costa said unspecified threats had been made against him during the trial, which involves charges of multiple murder, torture, kidnapping and forced deportations.

Da Costa is one of 10 defendants facing war crimes charges relating to the murder of nine people, including a group of clergy, in Lautem, in the east of the territory, on September 25, 1999.

"The ones who did it, the ones who ordered us to do it, they said 'If you say any more about that', then they will get very angry with me," da Costa said.

"I have become a target in this court, nowhere else.''

Judge da Costa then ordered proceedings suspended and issued instructions for da Costa to be placed under special protection.

In earlier evidence da Costa said he had been forced to join the militia by members of Indonesia's special forces, Kopassus. He would have been killed if he had refused to join, he said.

A Kopassus officer, Lieutenant Syaful Anwar, had been in overall command of the militia group in Lautem.

Anwar is one of 11 people charged with the killings in Lautem, but is not in custody and is believed to be at large in Indonesia.

Prosecutors allege da Costa, 51, was a militia platoon commander, and took an active part in the killings.

Da Costa told the court he had a semi-automatic rifle and one grenade.

"We were given weapons, but not for evil purposes but to take care of ourselves and our families.''

The trial continues in the Dili District Court of Appeals.

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