Subject: JP: Former militia leader ready to carry the can for military

November 27, 2002

Former militia leader ready to carry the can for military

Moch. N. Kurniawan, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Former pro-Jakarta militia leader Eurico Guterres put his life on the line for Indonesian Military (TNI) officers accused of past atrocities in East Timor, saying the military had never ordered the establishment of, or helped paramilitary groups.

Eurico was testifying at the human rights tribunal in the trial against former East Timor military commander Brig. Gen. Noer Muis on Monday, where he asserted that there was no link between the military and paramilitary groups in connection with the referendum to decide on the separation of East Timor from Indonesia in August 1999.

The witness claimed that all militia groups, including Attarak which he chaired, were established of their own initiative to maintain the unity of Indonesia.

"We established pro-Indonesia groups, which I refuse to call militia, not upon the request of the military or police but because of our concern for national unity," he told the court.

"I'm ready to be punished if proven guilty."

According to him, when Attarak militia group was founded in April 1999, it was under no obligation to report its activities to the military or the police.

Eurico, also a defendant in a related case, revealed that the militia did not obtain weapons from TNI. He said the weapons were seized from fleeing Portuguese soldiers and armed groups who resisted the arrival of Indonesian troops in East Timor in 1975.

Clashes between the pro-integration and pro-independence groups were rampant prior to and after the 1999 referendum, which resulted in independence for East Timor.

Over 1,000 people are believed to have been killed during the period, while 250,000 fled to East Nusa Tenggara.

Eurico lauded fellow defendant Noer Muis, whom he said had initiated and created a peace agreement between pro-Jakarta and pro-independence groups before the referendum took place.

"But on the same day when we signed the agreement, my relative was reportedly killed. So it was unfortunate that the agreement didn't work," Eurico said.

He also said Noer Muis and his subordinates were not involved in clashes on Sept. 5 and Sept. 6, 1999 in the compound of Dili Bishop Carlos Belo that killed at least 13 people as well in the office of the Dili Diocese and in a fight in the compound of Ave Maria Church in Suai on Sept. 6, 1999 which left some 26 people dead.

"Noer Muis tried his best to secure Dili," Eurico said.

Eurico, however, failed to name persons responsible for the incidents.

Prosecutor Widodo Supriyadi, who demanded a 10-year prison sentence for Noer Muis, was disappointed with Eurico's testimony and said he would present another witness.

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