Subject: AFP: Three more on trial for NZ soldier's murder

Friday January 4, 06:02 PM

Three more on trial for NZ soldier's murder

Another three East Timorese ex-militiamen have been put on trial here for the murder of a New Zealand peacekeeper near the Indonesian-East Timor border in July 2000, their defence lawyer said.

Originally only Yacobus Bere, 37, a member of the East Timorese anti-independence Pro Integration Fighters (PPI), was being tried for the murder of Private Leonard Manning, who was shot dead while on a border patrol with the United Nations peacekeepers in East Timor.

When the trial resumed in the Central Jakarta District Court on Thursday, Bere was joined by three other defendants, lawyer Nicolay Aprilindo told AFP.

"I was completely surprised when the police produced these three as suspects. They don't know anything about Manning's death, they've just been added on as a bumper," Aprilindo claimed.

The three new suspects, from Kupang and Atambua in West Timor, were charged on December 14, he said.

"We weren't anticipating this. They were questioned without a lawyer," Aprilindo said.

The court has heard that Bere was in a group of six people wandering through rugged border territory near Suai in search of a stray cow on July 24, 2000, when they encountered Manning.

Police say the three new suspects were in the group, but Aprilindo said Bere denied they were with him.

Aprilindo told the court in November that Manning was killed in a "shootout" with the group and that his death was not intentional. Reports have said Manning was shot twice, his ears were cut off and his firearm was stolen.

The hearings have been repeatedly delayed since the trial opened in November because of Bere's health.

The court sat once in November, once in December and for the third day yesterday when three witnesses for the prosecution, including the head of Manning's unit, Corporal Nicholas Alan Marfel, gave evidence.

Also testifying were another New Zealand soldier, Philip Chiter, and an Indonesian soldier Dominicus Sirri.

Chiter and Marfel told the court they did not know who shot their colleague, nor whether Bere was in the area at the time, Satunet online news reported.

Aprilindo alleged that his clients "were being framed" by two former militia leaders.

More prosecution witnesses were due to be cross-examined on Friday.

Indonesia has come in for international criticism for its perceived reluctance to punish militiamen and soldiers over atrocities in East Timor.

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