Subject: E.Timor court says militiaman faces 10 years jail

E.Timor court says militiaman faces 10 years jail

DILI, East Timor, Jan 19 (Reuters) - United Nations' prosecutors in East Timor have recommended a 10-year jail term for a former pro-Jakarta militiaman in one of the first court cases linked to violence surrounding the territory's 1999 independence vote.

Former militia member Joao Fernandes has pleaded guilty to murdering a village chief inside a police station in Maliana township on September 8, 1999.

The case heralds a breakthrough for East Timorese who have been waiting for justice following the violence in which the U.N. estimates more than 1,000 were killed. At least 300,000 were either forced, or fled, across the border into Indonesian West Timor.

Nearly 80 percent of East Timorese voted to break from Jakarta's harsh 23-year rule in a U.N.-organised ballot on August 30, 1999.

"The prosecutors recommended 10 years on the fact it was a serious crime," U.N. spokesman in East Timor Peter Biro said.

"(Fernandes) promised to cooperate with authorities and promised to testify about further crimes committed in Bobonaro (near Maliana)," Biro added.

Fernandes, 27, will be formally sentenced when proceedings resume next Thursday.

But the case will not go to trial because he pleaded guilty at a preliminary hearing on January 10.

U.N. human rights investigators say up to 17 people suspected to be pro-independence supporters were murdered at the Maliana police station, southwest of the capital Dili, by a rampaging militia mob.

The first trials for crimes against humanity involving 11 suspects are due by the end of the month.

East Timor militia leader Eurico Guterres is also on trial in Jakarta over violence in the border township of Atambua.

Guterres' trial resumes in the capital on Monday.

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