Subject: Timor Militia Leader Guterres Fought For Indonesia -Defense Lawyers

Associated Press April 3, 2001

Timor Militia Leader Fought For Indonesia-Defense Lawyers

JAKARTA (AP)--Attorneys for East Timorese militia leader Eurico Guterres Tuesday demanded that weapons charges against him be dropped on the grounds that he was an Indonesian patriot, not a criminal.

Lawyer Suhardi Somomoeljono said state prosecutors had failed to prove Guterres' guilt during the course of the three-month trial.

"We urge the judges of this court to acquit our client because he was struggling for the red and white flag in East Timor," Somomoeljono said. Red and white are Indonesia's national colors.

Guterres and his militiamen "were not criminals, but were defending Indonesia's interests," he said.

Guterres is accused of ordering his followers last year to take back weapons they had earlier surrendered to police in Indonesian-controlled West Timor as part of a disarmament program.

The incident happened soon after three U.N. foreign aid workers were slaughtered by a militia mob.

Last week prosecutors asked the court to sentence Guterres to one year in prison.

Many observers have criticized the proposed punishment as being too lenient, noting that, if convicted, Guterres would be released by the end of the year as he had already spent several months in custody.

Six bodyguards in military fatigues escorted Guterres to the North Jakarta District Court, which was ringed by some 200 police officers. Around 30 of his supporters crowded into the courtroom.

Guterres' gang and other militia, aided by the Indonesian military, destroyed much of East Timor in September 1999 after the territory voted in a U.N.-organized ballot to break free of Indonesian rule.

When international peacekeepers arrived to restore order, he and hundreds of other anti-independence fighters fled to West Timor where they seized several border camps and terrorized thousands of refugees from East Timor.

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