Subject: AFP: Sentenced over Timor atrocity, ex-militia chief wants reconciliation

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

Agence France Presse January 3, 2003

Ex-militia chief sentenced over Timor atrocity wants reconciliation

JAKARTA -- A former militia leader who is facing a jail term in Indonesia over atrocities in East Timor said Friday he plans to send a delegation to the new nation to promote reconciliation.

"Soon I'm going to lay a stone of peace at the border and send a sports delegation to East Timor to speed up reconciliation," said Eurico Guterres, speaking from Kupang in Indonesian West Timor.

Indonesia's human rights court in November sentenced the former pro-Jakarta militia chief to 10 years in jail for crimes against humanity over a massacre of East Timorese independence supporters in 1999.

He is free pending an appeal.

Guterres told AFP by phone he had invited East Timor President Xanana Gusmao, Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri and Foreign Minister Jose Ramos-Horta to attend a Christmas celebration held by pro-Jakarta East Timorese in West Timor on January 4.

The theme would be "Forget the Past, Look to the Future," Guterres said.

But he said Gusmao and the others could not travel to West Timor because of technical difficulties.

"We are disappointed that our good intention has not been responded to positively. We are peace-loving people, contrary to what they (East Timorese) have portrayed," he said.

Guterres led the pro-Indonesia Aitarak militia, blamed for much of the violence surrounding East Timor's vote for independence from Indonesia in August 1999.

Militias armed and organised by the Indonesian military waged a campaign of intimidation before the vote and revenge afterwards. An estimated 1,000 people were killed and thousands of buildings were destroyed.

An estimated 250,000 East Timorese fled or were forced to flee to Indonesian West Timor during the violence. Most of them have returned.

Guterres, 28, said he was ready to die in exchange for the freedom of former pro-Indonesian militiamen who had been jailed in newly-independent East Timor.

"I'm not the only one who wants to return to East Timor. Other East Timorese here do too," Guterres said.

"I'm ready to be hanged before the East Timorese if my death would be the last death for East Timor."

tn/sm/rcw


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