Subject: AFP: Former militia leader on trial for firearms possession

Wednesday, July 12 8:54 PM SGT

Former East Timorese militia leader on trial for firearms possession

JAKARTA, July 12 (AFP) -

Former deputy commander of the pro-Indonesia East Timorese militias, Eurico Guterres, Wednesday faced a second hearing in his trial for illegal possession of fireams, a judge said.

"The lawyers for Eurico Guterres today (Wednesday) presented their defence," said Judge A. Tobing, the head of the Kupang district court in Kupang, the main town in West Timor.

Tobing said that Guterres, whose trial opened on July 5 was charged with illegal possession and carrying of firearms, a charge that carries the death penalty as its maximum penalty.

"His defence, roughly, is that as a former militia leader, recognized by the government, he was entitled to carry firearms," Tobing said.

He added that at least 200 former East Timorese militiamen had packed the courtroom, but said their leaders had managed to keep them calm and orderly.

The trial proceeded peacefully, local police said.

"There were many more militias when the trial opened last week and today everything went without incident," First Sergeant Ketut Mestriawan from the Kupang police said.

Guterres was head of the feared Dili-based Aitarak (thorn) militia and also the deputy commander of the pro-Indonesia Force for Integration Fighterswhich gathered all militias across East Timor.

The militia, backed by Indonesian soldiers, launched a campaign of terror and destruction following the pro-independence results of the UN-held ballot in East Timor announced on September 4.

The militias have been accused of widespread killings, and the violence prompted more than 250,000 East Timorese to flee, voluntarily or at gunpoint, to West Timor.

More than 100,000 others fled to the hills and mountains of East Timor until an international force arrived to halt the bloodshed.

Pro-Indonesian militias fled to West Timor when UN-sanctioned international troops landed in East Timor on September 21.

Rights activists and humanitarian workers have said the militias have since continued to rule and control refugee camps in West Timor, often terrorizing refugees wishing to return home.

Tobing said Guterres' trial will resume on July 19, when the court will decide whether, based on initial arguments from both sides, to continue to hear the case.


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