Subject: AP: Rights Groups Welcome Conviction Of East Timor Guerrilla

Dow Jones Newswires March 2, 2001

Rights Groups Welcome Conviction Of East Timor Guerrilla

DILI, East Timor (AP)--Human rights groups Friday welcomed the conviction by a U.N. court of an East Timorese guerrilla for killing a pro-Indonesian militiaman during 1999's post-independence violence.

Julio Fernandes was sentenced to seven years in prison - the first member of East Timor's main pro-independence guerrilla group, Falintil, to be convicted for the violence that followed the U.N.-sponsored vote for independence.

The sentencing will encourage ex-militiamen and refugees in Indonesian West Timor to return home, said Joachin Fonesca, a spokesman for East Timor's leading human rights organization, Yayasan HAK.

"This case shows that the same standards apply to pro-independence and pro-Indonesia supporters," Fonesca said.

Last month, a former pro-Indonesian militiaman was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment for killing an independence supporter during the violence. About 70 other militiamen implicated in the violence are in detention, awaiting trial.

After the East Timorese voted for independence, Indonesian soldiers and their militia auxiliaries went on a rampage, killing hundreds. Much of the province was destroyed.

International peacekeepers stopped the violence and most militiamen fled to West Timor. The United Nations is administering East Timor during its transition to full independence, expected next year.

The U.N. court convicted Fernandes of stabbing a militiaman to death in a marketplace, encouraged by a pro-independence mob. The crowd had cut the militiaman's ears off and tied him to a chair.

After the Portuguese pulled out of East Timor in 1974, Indonesia invaded and ruled the territory for the next 24 years.

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