Subject: AP: East Timor Militia Leader Gets 10 Years
East Timor Militia Leader Gets 10 Years By LELY T. DJUHARI, Associated Press Writer
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) - An Indonesian court on Wednesday sentenced a notorious militia leader to 10 years in prison for crimes committed during East Timor (news - web sites)'s bloody break from Indonesia.
Eurico Guterres listened impassively as the judge read out the sentence — the harshest yet in a series of trials of Indonesian officers, officials and militiamen accused of inciting or allowing the violence that shook East Timor after its independence vote on Aug. 30, 1999.
"The judges find the defendant guilty of grave human rights violations and crimes against humanity," Judge Herman Hutapea said.
Guterres is the best known leader of the paramilitary gangs recruited by the Indonesian army to combat pro-independence supporters in East Timor.
"I'm confused about the ruling," Guterres later told reporters, insisting that the people who should have been convicted were senior security officials.
He said he would appeal the verdict — a move that will enable him to remain free while the Supreme Court in Jakarta considers the case.
"Justice has not been done," said East Timorese rights activist, Silvero Batista Pinto, in the capital of Dili. "Guterres has committed torture and mass killings."
Prosecutors had demanded that Guterres, who led the much-feared, Dili-based Aitarak militia, be imprisoned for 10 years — the minimum punishment under Indonesian law. He could have faced the death penalty.
Guterres is only the second of 18 suspects to have been convicted. Former province Gov. Abilio Soares was jailed for three years earlier this year.
So far, six police and military officers have been acquitted of all charges.
The judge said that on April 7, 1999, Guterres instructed hundreds of his militiamen to kill pro-independence leaders. Shortly thereafter, a pro-Indonesian mob murdered 12 people sheltering at the home of one such leader, Manuel Carascalao, in Dili.
The string of light sentences and not-guilty verdicts has angered human rights groups, who long have feared that most of the guilty would go unpunished, despite Indonesia's promises to the international community that justice will be done.
Hendardi, an Indonesian human rights activist, said Guterres had been "sacrificed" to protect the military.
"It shows that the military, especially the generals, have privileges," said Hendardi, who goes by a single name. "They are untouchable by law."
The United Nations (news - web sites) has blamed Indonesia's army and its militia proxies for the violence before, during and after the U.N-sponsored referendum on independence. Nearly 2,000 civilians were killed and 250,000 were forced to flee their homes.
East Timor gained full independence in May, after a period of transitional rule by the United Nations.
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