Subject: AFP: Militia denies intimidation of refugees in West Timor

Militia denies intimidation of refugees in West Timor

KUPANG, Indonesia, Nov 11 (AFP) - Pro-Indonesian militia forces were not evil and were not intimidating East Timor refugees in West Timor, militia leader Eurico Guterres said Thursday.

"The militias are not as evil as people say, the militias are not as is being reported both by the international and Indonesian media," Guterres told AFP from his business class seat while flying here from Jakarta.

International aid and humanitarian aid workers have accused the militias of ruling refugee camps in West Timor, intimidating and terrorizing refugees wanting to return to home and intimidating and harassing relief workers.

But Guterres, deputy commander of the pro-Indonesian militia forces, challenged his accusers to catch a militia member intimidating people in West Timor and prove the terror was launched by militias.

"I ask people to try to capture one of those who intimidate them, to prove whether it is really a militia member or just someone else posing as a militia to engage in terror and intimidation," he said.

Militia members mixed in with some 260,000 East Timorese who fled or were forced to flee to Indonesia-controlled West Timor following the UN-sponsored August 30 referendum which returned an 80 percent vote for independence.

Guterres said that although the militias had some part in the violence that followed the August 30 vote in East Timor, others were also to blame.

"A lot of the violence should also be attributed to revenge among East Timorese," he said.

Without naming names, Guterres said there were certain sides bent on tarnishing the image and reputation of the militias by trying to paint them as cruel and barbaric.

He said the militias were not against people returning to East Timor.

"If you leave it to me, they should all return," said Guterres who was wearing a camouflage jacket over a T-shirt bearing a picture of Silvester Stallone, the actor famous for his roles as Rocky and Rambo.

"I, as a commander of the militias, has made it clear both in Kupang and in Atambua, that whoever wants to go home is free to do so. Those who want to stay can also do so."

Guterres said he was not afraid of being investigated by an international commission of inquiry over violence blamed on the militia in East Timor.

"I am not afraid ... whenever they want to investigate me, I am prepared," he said.

The UN Commission on Human Rights has set up a commission of inquiry to probe the post-ballot violence when the pro-Jakarta militias went on an unchecked rampage across the territory.

The commission would also decide whether an international tribunal on crimes against humanity needed to be set up.

Guterres said he was heading for Atambua, the main town in the West Timorese district of Belu which borders East Timor and where the bulk of the refugees have have been accomodated.


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