Subject: JP: Controversy emerges on Guterres at court hearing

THE JAKARTA POST January 16, 2001

Controversy fact emerges on Guterres at court hearing

JAKARTA (JP): Lawyers defending former East Timor prointegration leader Eurico Guterres insisted on Monday his trial was unlawful following their latest assertion that the government had yet to revoke the defendant's status as a member of the legislative council in the former Indonesian province.

One of the lawyers, Suhardi Somomoeljono told a session at the North Jakarta District Court he had received notification from the ministry of home affairs and regional autonomy that his client was still registered as a councillor and received his monthly salary.

"This new fact raises a question (of the validity of the trial) since there should have been written approval from the (East Timor) governor.

"But who is the governor now? This case is dealing with a vacuum of law," Suhardi told the panel of judges presided over by Suwardi.

The lawyer said from the legal point of view, the finding implied that the East Timor province's existence remained recognizable and that the defendant was not jobless as stated in his indictment.

Last week lawyers said the charges against their client were obscure and, thus, should be set aside by the judges for failing to clarify Gueterres' status and profession.

Chief prosecutor Hamka Minhadj, however, insisted that the defendant did not have a permanent job.

"It's only the lawyers' interpretation that we describe Guterres as jobless. We called the defendant "a militiaman" in accordance with the investigators' report, in which the term is used to describe all pro- integration East Timorese who struggled to stay with Indonesia," Hamka said.

He charged the court to accept the indictment and to proceed with the trial.

Guterres is accused of instigating his men to retake seized weapons from police officers and possessing illegal weapons last year in Atambua, East Nusa Tenggara, where he resided as a refugee.

Around 250,000 East Timorese fled to neighboring provinces after a vote on the Aug. 30, 1999 chose not to integrate with Indonesia.

Dozens of Guterres supporters packing the courtroom stood up and sang the national anthem soon after the session was opened. Judge Suwardi declined to calm the supporters, who opted to remain standing during the 20-minute hearing.

Still in his military fatigues, Guterres interrupted the hearing, demanding the judges issue a verdict.

"Although I'm a fighter and a legislator, the government has abandoned me. Just punish me, I'm ready ... even to be hanged," he screamed.

The court was adjourned until Jan. 21 to hear the judges' pretrial ruling.

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