Timorese family mourn aid worker believed killed by militias
East Timorese family mourn aid worker believed killed by militias
DILI, East Timor, Dec. 12 (AFP) - Wailing family members gathered on Sunday to mourn a worker for the Care international relief agency who they said was murdered by pro-Indonesian militias.
Family members found the body of Jose dos Reis, 23, on Friday. He had been buried in a crude grave behind the house of a militia commander in the town of Hera, just outside Dili, said Joaquim Alin, a relative.
Dos Reis had been missing since August 31 when he tried to ride his motorcycle to the eastern coastal town of Manatuto to meet his girlfriend who had returned there to vote in the August 30 ballot on East Timor's future, Alin told AFP.
Hera, just over the hills southeast of Dili, was widely known as a militia stronghold at that time.
"People here said don't go ... But he said, 'No problem,'" Alin said.
Dos Reis was known as a dependable and independent worker for Care, said the agency's Dili administrator, Patrice Charpentier.
"He was in charge of distributing 10 to 20 tonnes of rice a day," Charpentier said. "Jose was a very quiet fellow."
Care had close to 80 East Timorese staff before the ballot in which East Timorese voted overwhelmingly to move toward independence from Indonesia. The vote sparked an orgy of murder, arson, looting and forced deportation by the militias and Indonesian armed forces.
Charpentier said he tried to arrange for the evacuation of staff who wanted to leave East Timor but many decided to flee on their own to the mountains.
Weeks later after he re-opened the Dili office, Charpentier found that all his local staff except one had survived and wanted to work again.
"Jose, there was no news at all," Charpentier said.
His family hoped he had fled to the hills to join the pro-independence Falintil guerrillas, Alin said.
Then an old man arrived at their Dili house. He said he had been with the militias but had run away. He said he saw Dos Reis killed.
In another ominous sign, Dos Reis's Care identification card turned up at a police station, Charpentier said.
Care lent the family some cars so they could travel to Hera. Alin said they identified Dos Reis by the T-shirt and pants he had worn. His neck was severely cut and his left arm had been severed, said Alin, an interpreter with the civilian police of the United Nations Transitional Authority in East Timor (UNTAET).
"After they killed him, they put him in a small hole, put some sand, and then put a stone," Alin said.
As he spoke in the dirt front yard of the family's house, a woman wailed. Men sawed wood to make final preparations for the tomb just in front of the house.
Alin said Dos Reis wasn't the only person killed and buried at the militia house in Hera. "Plenty of people died there," he said.
Dos Reis lived in the Dili neighborhood of Mataduoro, not far from UNTAET headquarters. He was at least the fourth youth from that neighborhood to die around the time of the ballot.
One of his friends, Marcelino, was hacked to death and burned during a militia attack near the UN compound. Two other Mataduoro youths were shot dead in the same attack.
Alin said he, Dos Reis and Marcelino had all been imprisoned by the Indonesians from 1995 to 1996 for political activity "because we love our country."
Before he was buried, Dos Reis lay wrapped in traditional tais cloth of purple, yellow and black. His girlfriend writhed in grief as Dos Reis's father pulled back the cloth, removed some plastic and displayed part of the body.
The head resembled a small brown ball, not something human.
Above the coffin sat a crucifix and a photograph in profile of Dos Reis, a young man with a moustache.
Charpentier said Care will report the death to UNTAET's police in the hope they can investigate.
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