Subject: AU: E Timor chief facing jail for crimes

The Australian

E Timor chief facing jail for crimes

By Sian Powell Jakarta correspondent


THE former governor of East Timor, Abilio Soares, will become the first person jailed by Indonesia for crimes committed in East Timor during the violence-racked year of 1999.

The Supreme Court last week upheld the decision of Indonesia's ad hoc tribunal on East Timor, and formally sentenced Soares to three years in prison.

It was reportedly a split decision, with three judges opting for a three-year sentence and two for a 10-year term. Soares was convicted of gross crimes against humanity for failing to prevent the violence that swept through East Timor in 1999, killing as many as 1500 East Timorese and laying the half-island to waste.

The former governor is likely to be jailed within days, after the state prosecutors receive a copy of the verdict from the Supreme Court.

Soares's lawyers have said they may request a judicial review, but this is extremely unlikely to be granted because there is no new evidence. A spokesman for the Attorney-General's Department said the Supreme Court's decision was final.

Soares declared yesterday that he knew nothing about the matter, and would not return to Jakarta from the eastern city of Makassar in Sulawesi for at least a week.

"I haven't heard the decision yet," he said. "My lawyers haven't called me yet, and I'm still in the middle of a meeting."

Soares's second-in-command in East Timor, Rajakarina Brahmana, had told the ad hoc tribunal that between 10 per cent and 20 per cent of the total provincial government's budget in 1999 was spent on the anti-independence cause, including paying for the militias that wreaked havoc throughout the province. Soares had ultimate control of the budget.

As governor, Soares also leant his support to those opposing independence. He was at a militia rally in Dili in April 1999, where the militia commander Eurico Guterres said pro-independence leaders should be killed.

Later that day, the militias burst into the house of opposition leader Manuel Carrascalao, killing 12 people including his 18-year-old son.

Soares's lawyer Juan Felix Tambubolon said the Supreme Court verdict was a travesty of justice because Soares had no direct command over the actions considered to be gross human rights violations.

"How is it possible (that he has been convicted), while the one with the chain of command is not punished," he asked. "How can a governor who has no command be punished?"

Mr Tambubolon said Soares was informed of the court's decision last week and that the former governor had declared he would fight on.

Mr Tambubolon said it was unlikely the convict would flee the country. "Anyone can run from a case," he said. "But up until now I haven't seen any indication like that from him."

Widely described as a whitewash, the ad hoc tribunal on East Timor has tried 18 people on human rights violations and convicted six.

Five cases remain to be heard by the Supreme Court, which has until now reversed convictions and upheld acquittals.

The case of Abilio Soares is the only conviction handed down by the Supreme Court so far, and activists have speculated that it is because he is East Timorese, rather than Indonesian.

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