Subject: AFP: Ex-Timor miliia chief in court

Ex-Timor army chief in court

November 07, 2002 Agence France-Presse

A former militia chief has denied he had committed human rights abuses in East Timor three years ago and said he was a victim of the Indonesian government's desire to appease international criticism.

Reading out a lengthy defence plea at Indonesia's human rights court, Eurico Guterres said he could not be held responsible for an attack at the home of an East Timorese independence leader because he was not in control of the frenzied crowd. The militia attack on April 17, 1999, at the home of Manuel Carrascalao left 12 people dead including Carrascalao's son.

The raid followed a mass rally by militiamen outside the governor's office at which Guterres delivered an allegedly inflammatory speech.

According to court documents, Guterres urged his militiamen to kill all independence supporters. But an impassioned Guterres told the court: "I'm not a monster who has no heart.

"I never ordered, directed or assisted people to injure or kill other people," he said, adding that he did not witness the attack and did not know who did it.

Guterres, 28, said his trial was politically motivated. "This political trial is just a formality and in the end I will be punished," he said. "The reality I'm facing now is extremely ironic and painful. "It's like I'm being dumped because I'm not useful anymore."

Earlier, Guterres' lawyers also read a separate defence plea, in which they described his trial as "a political conspiracy". "Does Eurico Guterres not have any human rights that he has to be sacrificed?" chief lawyer Suhardi Sumomulyono asked the court.

"It is a shame that such a big country as ours could bow to pressure," he said.

Guterres is charged with failure to stop his subordinates attacking Carrascalao's home. The charges carry a maximum sentence of death, but prosecutors have asked for a 10-year sentence.

Pro-Jakarta militias, armed and organised by the Indonesian military, waged a brutal campaign of terror in which an estimated 1,000 people were killed before and after East Timor's vote on August 30, 1999, to break away from Indonesia.

Guterres said he was not officially in command of pro-Jakarta militiamen. He said the militiamen were not recruited but banded together because they were bound by the same goal of defending East Timor's integration with Indonesia.

Guterres accused the media of distorting facts about the violence in East Timor by mainly blaming the militia and of supporting an "imperialist conspiracy" to separate the territory from Indonesia.

A total of 18 people have been tried or are still on trial in Indonesia's human rights court for alleged gross human rights violations in East Timor in 1999.

In widely criticised verdicts, the human rights court has already acquitted six officers, including the former East Timor police chief, and sentenced the former provincial governor to just three years in jail.

Guterres' trial resumes next Thursday.

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