Subject: AGE: Timor accused (Tavares) tears up military deal

Timor accused tears up military deal By Matthew Moore Indonesia Correspondent


May 22, 2004

The most senior of the former militia commanders in East Timor has torn up an agreement with the Indonesian army to leave the border area in West Timor.

He is building a house within sight of the country where he is wanted for murder.

Joao Tavares, described by UN war crimes prosecutors as the East Timor Supreme Militia Commander, left the West Timor border town of Atambua last August under a deal that the European Community funded.

According to UN and military sources involved in getting Tavares out of the sensitive border region, the militia commander agreed to live far away in Yogyakarta, Java, for two years as part of a plan to reduce the tensions his activities were causing.

But when The Age visited Atambua this week, Tavares was in the final stages of building a house to replace the one the Indonesian military bought from him last year with money the European Union provided.

He said he spent seven months in Yogyakarta and returned to Atambua around March.

While admitting he had sold his Atambua house to the military, he denied he signed an agreement put to him.

"The agreement was made by the danrem (regional commander) but when they asked me and my wife to sign it, we refused," he said.

But Colonel Moeswarno Moesanip (the danrem) said yesterday from Kupang, several hundred kilometres from Atambua, that Tavares had signed the agreement and he (the colonel) had a copy.

"He's just gone back to Atambua to visit his mother-in-law... there's no way he can stay in Atambua, his ID card says he lives in Yogya and his pension is paid there," he said.

Tavares said he would stay in Atambua for good and was spending around $A130,000 on one of the biggest houses in the town. He expects to move into the house in a month.

"I'm an Indonesian citizen, I can go anywhere in the world, to the USA or Australia or without reporting to anyone," he said.

Just over the border, Tavares has been indicted twice for crimes against humanity including murder and torture and could be arrested if he left Indonesia.

UN-funded prosecutors allege he ordered the killing of one of three men murdered in Poega village on April 12, 1999. He is also one of 57 people charged with 14 counts of crimes against the civilian population in Bobonaro District between May and September 1999.

Tavares said he had come back to Atambua after unknown people smashed down his door and assaulted his guard at his Yogyakarta house.

At 72, he said he was an old man and was no longer interested in the notorious activities for which he is known.

"I don't want to create problems, it just makes a headache," he said. "It's better to chase pretty women and make love than fight wars."

Tavares' return to the border region is certain to be raised with the Indonesian military by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the UN's East Timor peacekeeping forces, who were unaware that Tavares had reneged on the deal they helped strike.

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