Subject: AP: Militia Leader Requests Camp In E. Timor For Followers

Also: Feared militia chief seeks return to East Timor

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

Militia Leader Requests Camp In East Timor For Followers

DILI, East Timor, June 25 (AP)--A top leader of a militia that violently opposed independence from Indonesia urged East Timor's government to provide his followers with security guarantees and a transit camp to ensure their safe return to the newly independent nation.

The demands came during a meeting Tuesday between militia leader Joao Tavares and Timorese officials in the border town of Batugade, said Jake Morland, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

"We want a special transit camp to pass through to ensure our repatriation goes smoothly," said Tavares, who said he feared there could be reprisals against his supporters.

Timorese officials, however, said they oppose setting up a transit camp because they feared the refugees wouldn't return to their homes.

East Timor became the world's newest nation on May 20. Its politicians say reconciliation with the pro-Indonesian militias that ravaged the country after it voted for independence and encouraging refugee returns are key to the country's future stability.

Tavares is accused of helping lead a bloody rampage in East Timor after it voted for independence from Indonesia in a U.N.-sponsored ballot in 1999. Afterward, Tavares fled to Indonesian-held West Timor.

Tavares, who reportedly controls as many as 8,000 refugees, repeatedly stressed he wished to return.

"I want to come back because I want to rebuild East Timor and because I am old and I want to die at home," Tavares told reporters after the two-hour meeting.

About 250,000 people fled or were forced into West Timor by the militiamen and Indonesian military. Up to 50,000 remain there in squalid camps.

President Xanana Gusmao has stressed the need for reconciliation with the pro-Indonesian militias. But in recent weeks, he and other Timorese leaders have said the worst offenders must be brought to justice.

East Timorese legislators are debating a proposed law that grants amnesty for militiamen convicted of minor crimes.

During Tuesday's meeting, Tavares indicated he is willing to give evidence on atrocities, Morland said.

East Timorese prosecutors are investigating Tavares over his role in the 1999 violence but have yet to say whether they plan to charge him.

The two sides are scheduled to meet again next month.

The Age June 26, 2002

Feared militia chief seeks return to East Timor

By Jill Jolliffe

Pro-Indonesia militia leader Joao Tavares returned to East Timor yesterday for the first time since the violence of 1999.

Speaking after crossing the border at Batugade, the man considered by many East Timorese to be most responsible for militia crimes said he was prepared to stand trial.

Mr Tavares and other former militia leaders were in East Timor for talks mediated by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. The delegation, led by Lieutenant-Colonel Tjuk Agus, Indonesian military commander in Atambua, West Timor, travelled in an armoured convoy. It was carefully searched by Brazilian peacekeepers at the border post.

Mr Tavares was formerly a powerful landowner and had a long involvement with the Indonesian military. He was with special forces in their attack on Balibo in October 1975 and is alleged to have looted the body of one of the five journalists killed there.

In 1998 he became overall commander of the militia forces that devastated East Timor a year later. He was also commander of the feared Halilintur militia group.

Mr Tavares has told the UN that if he is allowed to return he will bring the 50,000 refugees still in West Timor with him.

Although no arrest warrant has yet been issued for Mr Tavares, the possibility remains, and there has been no suggestion so far of an amnesty offer.

Asked if he regretted the violence of 1999 Mr Tavares said he had been "the first person to defend independence in East Timor" but had been opposed to sudden independence.

Questioned about the Balibo killings, Mr Tavares said the journalists had made a mistake in "being by the side of my enemy".

He said that if he returned he would give evidence to the UN inquiry into the Balibo deaths, which was now in progress.

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