Subject: Lusa: Freed ex-militia boss who led massacre of nuns, priests says he's "repentant"

East Timor: Freed ex-militia boss who led massacre of nuns, priests says he's "repentant"

Dili, Timor-Leste 23/06/2008 12:10 (LUSA) Temas: Crime, lei e justiça, Direitos humanos

Dili, June 23 (Lusa) - Former East Timor militia chief Joni Marques, pardoned and released on parole this month after serving part of a long prison sentence for leading a massacre of nuns and priests in 1999, said Monday he was “repentant” for his crimes.

Marques, ex-leader of the pro-Jakarta Team Alfa militia, told Lusa he was “repentant for the violence of 1999.” He was jailed in 2001 for 33 years after being convicted of participation in an attack on a convoy of nuns and priests between Lautém and Baucau on Sept. 25, 1999.

Recalling the lead-up to the deadly attack, the former militiaman said “there was no plan to kill the nuns,” adding that himself and his men had been “drugged” by Indonesian Army officers before the massacre and had no recollection of the attack on the church vehicles.

“Twenty minutes after taking the drugs I lost judgment. And that (the massacre) happened. Only three days later did I return to normal and understand what I’d done. I was repentant and dismayed."

Along with Marques, another three members of Team Alfa convicted of violence in 1999 were released June 13 after receiving presidential pardons in May. One of these former militiamen, Gonçalo dos Santos, told Lusa at the weekend: “The past is the past”.

Speaking in his home village in the mountains west of Lospalos, dos Santos said: “I don’t dwell on 1999. I think about a new life. I’m an East Timorese citizen and I’m not going to leave the country.”

The paroling of the four ex-Team Alfa militiamen has come under fire from various human rights organizations, including the Dili representative for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR).

But neither of the freed militiamen interviewed by Lusa questioned the scale of their sentence reduction in the wake of President José Ramos Horta’s decision May 20 to grant pardons and commute sentences after discussions with the Dili government.

Speaking at a camp for displaced people where his family has been living since 2006, Joni Marques, 44, told Lusa: “I won’t comment on whether the sentencing was just of unjust. I didn’t appeal to the state when I was in jail. I’m not going to appeal while I’m free. The law is the law.”

“If anybody wants to appeal against me being free, go to Parliament of the President of the Republic.”

PRM/CJB

Lusa


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