Subject: AP: Jakarta gave funds to my militia, says chief

South China Morning Post May 31, 2002


Jakarta gave funds to my militia, says chief


A notorious militia leader told a human rights court yesterday that his group's activities in East Timor were funded by an Indonesian government official - but denied knowing about killings allegedly committed by his men.

Eurico Guterres commanded one of the militias blamed for killing more than 1,000 people and destroying much of the infrastructure of the former Indonesian province before and after its 1999 independence vote - allegedly with the backing of Indonesian security forces.

Guterres insisted to a tribunal trying Indonesian officials for humans rights abuses in East Timor that his group had an obligation to defend Indonesian interests.

"We had to arm ourselves because the [pro-independence forces] were armed as well," he said angrily. "We have to defend ourselves but also to defend the red and white flag of Indonesia. We were there to defend the assets of Indonesia."

He said that his militia received funding to support Jakarta from the mayor of Dili, the capital of East Timor, for three months in 1999.

The militia leader was testifying in the trial of former East Timor governor Abilio Soares, one of 18 Indonesian officials - including three army generals - accused of allowing the violence. Guterres is expected to become the 19th defendant charged over the violence. All 19 could face the death penalty if convicted.

Another witness yesterday recalled seeing Guterres outside a church before about 1,000 militiamen stormed it and killed more than 40 people in April 1999. Police stood by and watched the massacre, said the witness, Amelio Barreto.

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