Subject: LUSA: Militia Commander Recognizes Results of Independence Plebiscite

14 Sep 01 13:01 East Timor: Militia Commander Recognizes Results of Independence Plebiscite

The commander of the former anti-independence militia Mahidi, Cancio Lopes de Carvalho, said Friday he accepted the result of East Timor's 1999 independence plebiscite and was ready to leave Indonesian West Timor and face justice in his homeland.

"We are ready to face justice. We've asked for lawyers and will get them", Cancio de Carvalho said after meeting with East Timorese independence leader Xanana Gusmao in the village of Salele, on the border with East Timor and Indonesia's western half of Timor island.

Gusmao, who led the resistance to Indonesia's 1975-1999 occupation of East Timor, guaranteed in turn that "everyone will have the right to defense".

The leader of Mahidi, which was active in the Ainaro region of the East Timorese interior, said he was willing to "apologize and declare that apology to all the people". He added that he was ready to reveal details of his and Mahidi's role in the wave of violence unleashed after the 1999 ballot by the anti-independence militias, which favored East Timor's continued integration in Indonesia.

However, Cancio de Carvalho specified that he would only make such revelations after returning to East Timor. He said he would return within the next two months, with about 1,000 followers, most of them former members of anti-independence militias.

His brother Nemecio de Carvalho, also a militia member and who likewise did not cross the bridge at Salele on Friday, said he believed that "within one or two months the Mahidi militia will return to East Timor" to close the chapter of violence.

"It is up to the people of East Timor and their leaders to decide whether they want to pardon or not", he said, adding that he would also ready to "face a court, even an international one".

Other family members crossed back into East Timor on Friday, after being met at the border by Xanana Gusmao and by Indonesia's regional military commander, Willem da Costa. They were followed by a larger group of refugees, the biggest to return since March 2000.

Among the returnees were the father of Cancio and Nemesio, Mateus Lopes de Carvalho, who said he "accepted Timor Lorosae with all his heart", adding that he did not know who was responsible for the 1999 militia violence.

A brother, Francisco Lopes de Carvalho, also crossed back to his homeland on Friday, reiterating that he was ready to accept the results of the independence plebiscite and pledging to be a "good citizen of East Timor".

Gusmao highlighted the arrival of the refugees, saying it was "extremely positive", and would demonstrate to those remaining in West Timor that "what they have to do is return and help develop our country".

"We will not allow problems between us to cause problems for relations between East Timor and Indonesia", he added.

JBC -Lusa-

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