Subject: AFP: East Timorese 'feigned death to survive army-backed attack'

Agence France Presse

June 20, 2002 Thursday

East Timorese 'feigned death to survive army-backed attack'


JAKARTA, June 20

Survivors of a bloody 1999 attack on East Timorese independence supporters told Indonesia's human rights court Thursday how they fled or feigned death to escape rampaging pro-Jakarta militiamen.

Indonesian police and troops backed up the militias during the bloodshed that killed at least 15 people, the survivors said in written testimony against former East Timor police chief Timbul Silaen.

Nelio Mesquita da Castorego, 23, and Joao Bernandino Soares, 21, said they and their families had sought refuge at the Dili diocese on September 5 and saw militias, soldiers and police attack it.

At least two people were killed and many injured, according to the charges.

"At the diocese compound, there were already a lot of soldiers and Brimob (riot police) members. After lunchtime, volleys of shots were heard for about one hour and suddenly shots hit the house," da Castorego said.

He said hundreds of people who had taken refuge in the compound rushed into the buildings to hide.

He later fled through the roof but was caught by militiamen.

"I was told to kneel with my hands on my heads and afterwards one of the militiamen counted to three and a shot was fired. It ripped my cheek and one of my wrists," da Castorego said.

He feigned death and was left on the street until a passing Brimob patrol rescued him and took him to the military hospital.

"The whereabouts of eight members of my family are until now unknown," he added.

Soares said uniformed soldiers shot at the tyres of the car that was carrying him and his family as it entered the diocese just as the attack began.

They were beaten up by soldiers and militias and were later stabbed by militiamen before soldiers took them to the military hospital.

"The soldiers were in full uniform and armed while militias were mostly wearing black T-shirts with Aitarak or BMP written on the back," he said referring to two pro-Indonesia militia groups.

In her testimony, Maria Pereira Soares, 46, said they sought refuge at the diocese after her husband was accused of being too close to Dili Bishop Carlos Ximenes Felipe Belo.

She said militiamen stabbed and injured her husband and one of her five children with knives as she ran for safety to the harbour.

As she was searching for her mother and sister who had sought refuge at the bishop's residence the following morning, she witnessed another attack.

"I saw militias, TNI (armed forces soldiers) and police fire shots towards the refugees in the residence and some militias burned the building with gasoline," she said.

At least 13 people died in the second attack, the charge documents said.

A fourth witness also gave written testimony, which was read out by prosecutors.

Marcelino Martins Ximenes, a former group leader of the Aitarak militia, said he helped some 200 refugees leave the diocese for the safety of military headquarters.

He saw no dead or injured or anyone carrying firearms or weapons in the attack.

Prosecutor James Pardede told the court that seven witnesses from East Timor and one from West Timor were unwilling to testify in person over fears for their safety.

After Silaen's lawyer refused to recognise the written evidence as legal, Chief Judge Andi Samsang Nganro only allowed prosecutors to read four of the eight accounts.

Silaen is one of 18 soldiers, policemen or civilians now facing or due to face trial at the rights court for crimes against humanity by failing to halt five massacres of civilians in which more than 100 died.

Local militiamen, created and supported by Indonesian military elements, waged a campaign of intimidation before East Timor's vote in August 1999 to separate from Indonesia.

At least 1,000 East Timorese are estimated to have died during the campaign of intimidation before the vote and the subsequent violence.

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