Subject: RT- Timor militia boss says ready to die if convicted

Timor militia boss says ready to die if convicted

JAKARTA, June 27 (Reuters) - A notorious pro-Jakarta militia leader accused of atrocities in East Timor said on Thursday he was ready to die if found guilty of the 1999 massacres, but said the real blame for the bloodshed lies with Indonesia's president at the time.

Wearing a camouflage uniform and a scarf in the Indonesian colours of red and white, Eurico Guterres sat in the centre of a court room as a judge read out the charges against him on the first day of his trial in the country's new human rights court.

"For the sake of justice I am ready to die because I was there to defend the red and white, not my wife or children. I defended the republic of Indonesia," Guterres told reporters before the trial opened.

"If the court can prove that I'm guilty, I am ready to be sentenced," he added.

The court, which opened earlier this year, is conducting a slew of cases over the violence surrounding East Timor's vote to break from 24 years of often brutal Indonesian rule.

The United Nations estimates more than 1,000 people were killed in an orgy of violence by rampaging pro-Jakarta militias before and after the vote on August 30 1999.

Guterres has been charged with one count of attack and murder, which carries the death penalty, and one count of attack and torture which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment.

Both charges carry a minimum sentence of 10 years imprisonment.

Prosecutor Muhammad Yusuf said Guterres failed to control members of his much-feared Aitarak militia gang which spearheaded a deadly attack on the house of prominent pro-independence East Timorese Manuel Carrascalao in April 1999.

That attack came shortly after the militias were formed by Indonesia's military in a bid to influence the independence ballot.

"He did not take any appropriate or required measures to prevent or to stop his subordinates from attacking and killing. And he did not hand over the attackers," Yusuf told the court.

Guterres said he was a victim of the policy of former Indonesian President B.J. Habibie who allowed the U.N. to conduct the 1999 referendum on East Timor's future.

"Mr Habibie must be held responsible...if Habibie did not give such an option, then such things (violence) would not have happened," Guterres said.

The case has been adjourned until July 4.

Guterres, who has been linked to President Megawati Sukarnoputri's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), served a six month prison term a year ago for inciting violence in Indonesian West Timor in September 2000.

East Timor, a former Portuguese colony, was declared fully independent on May 20 this year when the U.N. handed over the reins of power in an emotion-charged ceremony on the outskirts of the capital Dili.

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