Subject: RT: Indonesia top court doubles Timor militiaman's term

Also AU: E Timor militia chief to be jailed

Indonesia top court doubles Timor militiaman's term

13 Mar 2006 10:56:05 GMT

Source: Reuters

JAKARTA, March 13 (Reuters) - Indonesia's Supreme Court on Monday doubled to 10 years the punishment for a leader of pro-Jakarta militia that went on a rampage in the period surrounding East Timor's 1999 freedom vote.

The verdict was similar to the sentence Eurico Guterres, who is ethnically East Timorese, was given by a district-level court in November 2002. However, an appellate court had halved that to five years in 2004.

After the appellate court's 2004 decision, the prosecution and Guterres, who has denied any wrongdoing, appealed to the Supreme Court, which chose to back the district court's ruling.

"The appellate court's ruling did not match the general feeling of justice. It was far below the minimum sentencing" for human rights abuse cases, Supreme Court judge Masyhur Effendi told reporters.

Effendi is a member of the five-judge panel that handled the case against Guterres, who led the notorious Aitarak militia gang.

Local militia gangs backed by Indonesian army elements were blamed for much of the carnage before and after East Timor voted in August 1999 to end 24 years of rule by Jakarta. The United Nations estimates about 1,000 people were killed in the 1999 violence.

The Supreme Court decision means Guterres, currently a politician on the Indonesian side of Timor island, becomes the only person of the 18 men indicted by Jakarta prosecutors over the 1999 Timor violence whose legal proceedings have ended with a conviction from Indonesia's highest judicial body.

Guterres, himself, has yet to serve any time for the conviction on East Timor violence. It is unclear whether or when he will start after the latest ruling but his lawyer said a judicial plea against the decision would be filed soon.

Under Indonesian laws, a convicted party can challenge a Supreme Court ruling if the individual can present strong new evidence.

Although some of the 17 other defendants of the 1999 events received sentences at certain court stages, all were eventually acquitted by the appellate court or Indonesia's Supreme Court.

All of the 17 were Indonesian security officers or government officials based in East Timor in 1999.

Their acquittals, which some say were a whitewash of the Indonesian government's involvement in the atrocities, have drawn fire from the West and international human rights groups.

East Timor, once a Portuguese colony, became an independent state in 2002.

--- The Australian

E Timor militia chief to be jailed

Sian Powell, Jakarta correspondent

March 14, 2006

THE militia leader who incited his followers to kill East Timorese independence supporters in 1999 will be the first person punished over the violence after Indonesia's Supreme Court upheld his conviction for crimes against humanity yesterday.

In a surprise decision that may indicate a change of thinking at the highest levels in Indonesia, the court found Eurico Guterres guilty and increased his sentence to 10 years in jail.

Having been free pending his appeal, Guterres, 34, who led the feared Aitarak (Thorn) militia, could be jailed within weeks, officials said.

Informed of the decision, Guterres admitted yesterday he was involved in crushing the independence movement in East Timor. "But I am not the one who created the situation," he said. "Everyone who was there, the police, the military, everyone was charged. But in the process everyone was freed. It only left me."

Guterres and his supporters had been confident the judiciary would continue its earlier trend of overturning convictions and upholding acquittals.

Yet a 2500-page UN-sanctioned report on East Timor released earlier this year, which found the Indonesian invasion responsible for as many as 180,000 East Timorese deaths, has again focused international attention on Indonesia's lacklustre approach to crimes against humanity in East Timor.

Indonesia and East Timor have also launched a Truth and Friendship Commission to investigate the atrocities of 1999, but it will have no power to punish the guilty.

Convicted by the ad hoc East Timor war crimes tribunal that Indonesia was forced to establish following intense international pressure, Guterres was first sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2002. On appeal to the High Court, the sentence was reduced to five years, but the Supreme Court yesterday re-instated the original sentence.

The native East Timorese has also been indicted for crimes against humanity by the UN-backed Serious Crimes Unit in East Timor.

As the chief militia leader in East Timor's capital, Dili, in 1999, Guterres's orders were followed with gusto. Immediately after his vicious speech at a pro-autonomy rally, he led his gang to attack the house of pro-independence leader Manuel Carrascalao. Twelve people were killed, including Carrascalao's 17-year-old son.

At the Supreme Court yesterday, Mansyur Effendi, one of the five judges on the Guterres case, said he had dissented because he believed the militia leader should be found innocent.

"In front of the Carrascalao house there were also soldiers and police," he said. "And there were also people who said Guterres's speech wasn't as harsh as it has been quoted."

Professor Effendi said the state bore some responsibility, and the judges should have taken into account the fact that all the others accused of crimes against humanity in East Timor had been acquitted.

As the chief of one of the most savage militias in East Timor, Guterres was directly involved in the carnage in the months before and after the independence ballot.

Lauded as a nationalist hero by some prominent Indonesians, and elected last month as regional chairman of one Indonesia's larger political parties, Guterres has in the past said his conviction for war crimes was "no problem".

More than 1500 East Timorese died in the violence. East Timorese towns were razed and as many as 250,000 people were forcibly transported to Indonesia. None of the militia leaders have been punished for the crimes of 1999.

In 2001, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Indonesia should move "quickly and decisively against Guterres".

The Supreme Court also upheld the acquittal of General Noer Muis, the former military chief in East Timor in 1999.

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