Subject: AP: East Timor Sentences Two Militiamen to Nine Years in Jail

East Timor sentences two militiamen to nine years in jail

DILI, East Timor, May 12 (AP): An East Timor court sentenced two militiamen Thursday to nine years in jail for taking part in a church massacre and other killings during the country's bloody break from Indonesian rule in 1999.

The case was the last to be heard by the UN-sponsored Serious Crimes Unit that is due to close on May 20. But the unit may have its mandate extended by at least six months based on recommendations by a UN fact-finding team looking into rights issues in East Timor.

Xisto Barros, 30, and Cesar Mendonca, 34, were convicted of killing two civilians during the Suai Church massacre in September 1999, in which Indonesian soldiers and their proxy militiamen stormed a church where refugees were hiding. At least 31 people - including three Catholic priests - perished in theattack, which was among the bloodiest in the aftermath of the UN-organized independence referendum.

The two men also were convicted in a third murder in the village of Lookeu and the forced deportation of hundreds of villagers during a campaign led by the Indonesian military.

East Timor has indicted 440 Indonesian servicemen and militia members for human rights violations over the violence that left 1,500 Timorese dead and East Timor in ruins.

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.

Jakarta refuses to hand over the suspects, and has said it will not respond to the indictments. East Timor's government also has not pushed to have the defendants turned over, saying good relations with its large neighbor are more important for the country's future.

Jakarta has set up a special tribunal to prosecute Indonesians allegedly responsible for the violence, but the trials have been widely criticized as a sham. All 16 police and military commanders indicted over the bloodshed have been acquitted.

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