Subject: LUSA: Gusmao defends clemency plea for ex-governor tried in Jakarta

07-08-2002 12:40:00. Notícia nº 3978610

Temas: new destaque2 East Timor: Gusmao defends clemency plea for ex-governor tried in Jakarta

President Xanana Gusmao Wednesday defended his controversial request for an Indonesian court trying human rights crimes committed in East Timor to show clemency in one case, saying he was simply seeking uniformity of justice and had not interfered in Indonesia's internal affairs.

"In my declaration I did not say that Abilio was not guilty", Gusmao said, referring to Dili's former Indonesian governor, Abilio Soares. "I simply made it known that I did not agree" with the prosecution's request for a 10-1/2-year sentence "because I know the process".

He reaffirmed that he did not consider Soares, tried for not having impeded anti-independence militia massacres in 1999, as one of those most responsible for the wave of violence that killed more than 1,000 East Timorese.

Soares is one of 18 Indonesian officials and military officers on trial in Jakarta for human rights crimes committed in East Timor.

Gusmao, in remarks made on his return to Dili from an official visit and a summit of leaders of Portuguese-speaking countries in Brazil, also denied that he had interfered in internal Indonesian affairs by writing to the Jakarta court, seeking clemency for Soares, last month.

"As a Timorese citizen, involved in reconciliation, when I preach reconciliation, justice and amnesty here (in East Timor), I want to follow the process" in Indonesia, he said.

His initiative, Gusmao stressed, aimed solely to seek uniformity "of values, moral paradigms and justice" on both sides of the border, noting that both Dili and Jakarta were living processes of democratization.

News of Gusmao's July 26 letter to the Jakarta court broke during his absence in Brazil, triggering angry responses from other Timorese leaders and some human rights organizations.

In one reaction, Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri said Gusmao's initiative could be "unconstitutional" as he had signed the letter as East Timor's president.

The public disagreement is only the latest clash between Alkatiri and Gusmao, who recently delayed promulgation of the government's budget and vetoed a tax-hike bill.

In a separate trial at Jakarta's special human rights court Wednesday, a judge suspended the session when a prominent East Timorese prosecution witness, businessman Manuel Carrascalao, burst into tears.

Carrascalao broke down on describing the April 17, 1999, attack on his Dili home that killed at least 12 people, including a 16-year- old son.

He testified that Indonesian soldiers dressed as civilians had joined anti-independence militias in the attack on his home, where hundreds of panicked civilians had sought shelter from earlier rampages.

Indonesian soldiers, especially the elite Kopassus commandos, killed Timorese civilians "like they were mowing lawns", Carrascalao said.

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