Subject: AP: East Timor Militia Leader Gets 12 Yr Prison Term

Dow Jones Newswires April 4, 2003

East Timor Militia Leader Gets 12 Yr Prison Term

DILI, East Timor (AP)--An East Timorese court on Saturday sentenced a senior militia leader to 12 years in prison for crimes against humanity committed during the country's bloody break from Indonesia in 1999.

Jose Cardosa Fereira was found guilty of murder, rape and torture against East Timorese civilians who supported the territory's independence from Indonesia .

"I accept this punishment as a consequence of the choices I made in the past," Fereira told reporters at the Dili District Court before being led away to begin his sentence.

His lawyers said they were considering whether to appeal.

Fereira's conviction was based on crimes committed between April and October 1999 by him and the notorious militia group he headed in the western Lolotoe district of the country.

His militia and others like it were established by the Indonesian military in the run-up to the U.N.-sponsored independence ballot to intimidate East Timorese to vote for continued union with Jakarta.

Along with sections of the Indonesian military, the militias killed more than 1,000 people and destroyed much of the territory before, during and after the ballot.

The bloodshed only stopped when international peacekeepers arrived after the ballot to restore order.

Fereira is one of 17 suspects convicted in East Timor over the violence. Many more have been indicted but they are believed to have fled to Indonesia .

Eighteen senior Indonesian military and police officials are facing trial in Jakarta for their alleged involvement in the violence.

So far, 11 suspects have been acquitted, prompting human rights activists to brand the trials a whitewash.

The trials were held after Jakarta came under intense international pressure to try those responsible for bloodshed.

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