Subject: Lusa: Dili grants some ex-militias immunity for reconciliation visits

East Timor: Dili grants some ex-militias immunity for reconciliation visits

Dili, Aug. 26 (Lusa) - East Timor's attorney-general's office has granted immunity from detention to about 150 former anti- independence militias and pro-Indonesia integrationists to return home temporarily for reconciliation meetings with officials and relatives .

The deputy attorney-general, Amândio Benevides, told Lusa Tuesday that the next group covered by the immunity order, about 15 people, were expected from West Timor Wednesday and did not include any persons sought for crimes by Dili.

More than 100 people, including some notorious former militia bosses, have taken advantage of the reconciliation initiative since the immunity program was declared by Attorney-General Longuinhos Monteiro Aug. 20.

Some judicial observers have questioned whether Monteiro has the authority to grant such temporary immunity to former militiamen sought on charges of atrocities committed in 1999 at the time of East Timor's independence plebiscite.

The first group to take advantage of the immunity program arrived in Dili Friday, holding meetings with Timorese officials, including President Xanana Gusmao, a champion of reconciliation.

That group included Egídio Manek, former deputy commander of the Laksur militia; two former commanders of the Mahidi militia, Vasco da Cruz and Domingos Alves; and Raúl Alex, a former member of the Indonesian army.

The attorney-general's Aug. 20 announcement underlined the importance of temporary immunity to facilitating reconciliation and the return of refugees from West Timor.

It warned, however, that returnees who trespassed outside the areas designated for their visit home would be "immediately detained".


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