Subject: SCMP: Militia leader grilled over killings retains support

South China Morning Post Saturday, October 7, 2000


Militia leader grilled over killings retains support


Eurico Guterres, the well-connected militia leader, was questioned by four Indonesian prosecutors yesterday about his role in an East Timor massacre last year and more recent violence in West Timor.

Witnesses claim he incited his followers to "cleanse" the East Timorese capital of pro-independence activists and sympathisers in April last year. But his lawyer says the charges of incitement to violence in Dili on which the militia chief was arrested in Jakarta on Wednesday are spurious.

Guterres was said to have led the attack on the Dili home of independence supporter Manuel Carrascalao, in which at least 13 people were killed.

Since his arrest, support has come from some of the highest rungs of Indonesian politics for the man who calls himself "The Patriot".

Guterres, 27, who is being held at police headquarters in Jakarta, is accused of thwarting the disarmament of militias in West Timor, a step demanded by the international community as a pre-condition for the resumption of aid for the 130,000 East Timorese refugees there.

Aid workers quit the province after militiamen murdered four UN aid staff in the border town of Atambua on September 5.

"Eurico Guterres was arrested after there was enough evidence for him to become a suspect in the destruction and burning of the UNHCR [UN High Commissioner for Refugees] office in Atambua," police Senior Superintendent Saleh Saaf was quoted as saying.

But Amien Rais, Speaker of the People's Consultative Assembly, defended the man blamed for a history of mob violence. "He's our friend. He's the leader of the pro-integration militia and he lost his homeland. If he's arrested for the sake of the UN, then what a nasty country that makes us," Mr Rais said.

A Golkar legislator, Ferry Mursidan Baldan, said: "Don't make him [Guterres] a scapegoat but a representative symbol of the East Timorese who want to integrate with Indonesia."

House of Representatives Speaker Akbar Tandjung said if Guterres was found to have broken the law he must be punished. But he urged the authorities "not to overreact when handing down a punishment, considering his dedication to Indonesia".

Guterres has admitted being sponsored by Jakarta and holds a senior position in the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle led by Vice-President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

President Abdurrahman Wahid began the process that led to Guterres' arrest last week while he was still on a foreign tour. Mr Wahid said Guterres should be detained and that there was evidence to justify it.

Some sources suggest Guterres is being eyed as a potential informer against his more senior paymasters in the army and elsewhere.

Guterres' armed followers have threatened violence if their leader is victimised, but the regional military commander has reported calm.

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