Subject: AP: Militiaman wanted for 1999 violence detained in East Timor

Associated Press Worldstream

August 11, 2005 Thursday 4:40 AM Eastern Time

Militiaman wanted for 1999 violence detained in East Timor

GUIDO GUILLIART; Associated Press Writer

CAILACO, East Timor

A militiaman accused of committing crimes against humanity during East Timor's bloody break from Indonesia was arrested late last month as he returned to visit relatives, police said Thursday.

Manuel Maia's arrest on July 27 was believed to be the first of a militiaman linked to the 1999 violence that left 1,500 dead since the United Nations closed its unit investigating and prosecuting rights violations in May.

"He has been involved in many cases against the people and he is accused of crimes against humanity," said Cailaco Police Chief Fauseo Pallo, who was involved in the arrest. "The victims are looking for justice."

Among the crimes Maia is accused of committing is the killing of two independence supporters in the village of Manapa in April 1999, and helping Indonesian soldiers and other anti-independence militiamen burn down homes in the town, which is near the border with Indonesia.

His case could serve as a barometer of East Timor's willingness to go after the hundreds of indicted militiamen and Indonesian soldiers who are still at large - many of them in Indonesia, human rights groups say.

"There are a lot of war crimes suspects in West Timor (Indonesia)," said Robin Perry, legal officer with Judicial System Monitoring Programme in East Timor. "They will be looking to see how the case of Maia will be treated."

"If (he) is allowed to walk free or given a light jail sentence, then that could send a clear signal to suspects that they can return to East Timor without fear of prosecution."

Nearly 1,500 people died when the Indonesian military and its proxy militias went on a killing, looting and burning spree after East Timorese voted overwhelmingly for independence.

The international community pressured Jakarta in 2002 to establish a special tribunal to prosecute Indonesians allegedly responsible for the violence.

But the trials have been widely criticized as a sham, with all 17 police and military commanders indicted receiving acquittals. The other, a Timorese militia leader, is free on appeal.

East Timor has indicted 440 Indonesian servicemen and militia members for human rights violations. Of those, 339 suspects are believed to be living in Indonesia - including failed Indonesian presidential candidate Gen. Wiranto, who was the country's military chief in 1999.

It remains unclear if any of those suspects will see a courtroom. East Timor's legal system remains weak and the U.N.'s Serious Crimes Unit - responsible for most of the indictments - closed on May 20. The U.N. Security Council has yet to act on a request to extend its mandate as rights groups and diplomats want.

Further complicating matters is the fact that neither Indonesia nor East Timor support the creation of an international tribunal - which is seen as the best way to bring perpetrators outside Indonesia to justice.

Instead, they have joined together to form the Truth and Friendship Commission, which will investigate the violence but has no power to prosecute.


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