Subject: Guterres refuses to be probed by UN over Timor atrocities

Ex-militia leader refuses to be probed by UN over Timor atrocities

JAKARTA, Jan 23 (AFP) - A former East Timor militia leader said Tuesday he would refuse to be questioned by UN investigators over last year's violence in East Timor unless pro-independence leader Xanana Gusmao was given the same treatment.

Eurico Guterres, the former chief of the feared Aitarak (Thorn) militia, insisted he was not to be held responsible for the bloodshed in the former Indonesian territory, saying his action was prompted by Jakarta's agreement to allow a vote there.

"Why are only pro-integrationists being investigated? I'm questioning the fate of 70 of my men still being held by UNTAET in East Timor," Guterres said.

Guterres was speaking in Jakarta after meeting investigators from the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) at the attorney general's office here.

The militia leader charged that Gusmao, the former leader of the Fretilin resistance force, had committed crimes in the 1970s during a civil strife in the former Portuguese colony.

He also charged that Gusmao had killed his brother.

The pro-Indonesia militias launched a frenzy of killing and destruction after East Timorese voted overwhelmingly for independence from Indonesia after two decades of occupation in a UN-held ballot in August 1999.

UN rights lawyers say they have evidence of at least 600 killings during the violence, and suspect there were more.

Guterres' lawyer Suhardi Sumomulyono described his client's meeting with UNTAET here on Tuesday as informal and not a questioning session.

East Timor's Foreign Minister and Nobel laureate Jose Ramos-Horta disagreed with Guterres's demand for an investigation into Gusmao, who is now the head of the transitional cabinet in East Timor, and is widely expected to become its first head of state.

"Xanana Gusmao is internationally respected and is a hero for the people of East Timor," said Ramos-Horta, who met Attorney General Marzuki Darusman on Tuesday.

"If the UN officials, who meet with him every day, want to talk to him to hear his opinion or advice on the trial taking place here, obviously he will provide it.

"But anything beyond that is totally unacceptable and I should not comment any further."

Guterres is on trial on charges of inciting criminal acts against the state of Indonesia. He could face a prison term of up to six year if convicted.

The charge is connected to a weapons handover in West Timor last year, and is unrelated to the proceedings brought by UN prosecutors, who have asked Indonesia to hand over Guterres for the massacres in East Timor.

The post-ballot violence forced around 250,000 people to flee across the border into West Timor and more than 100,000 others to hide in the forests of East Timor.

More than 100,000 East Timorese are still holed up in squalid camps in West Timor, where the militias terrorize and intimidate them, according to rights groups and UN officials.


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