Subject: SMH: I'm doing fine, says bruised teenager taken by militia chief

Sydney Monring Herald April 21, 2001

I'm doing fine, says bruised teenager taken by militia chief

Photo: Juliana dos Santas with the notorious militia leader Igidio Manek, who says he is prepared to pay her parents the "bride price". Photo: Christiani Tumelap

By Christiani Tumelap in Atambua and Lindsay Murdoch in Dili

A 16-year-old East Timorese girl allegedly kidnapped as a war prize has defended the notorious militia leader who fathered her son, saying she is "doing just fine" and wants to stay with him and his three de facto wives.

Juliana dos Santas told the Herald in a brief interview that she chose to leave her home town of Suai at the height of the East Timor mayhem in 1999 because she and the 28-year-old militia leader, Igidio Manek, were "probably meant for each other".

"I was not kidnapped or run away," Juliana said in the first interview she has given since her case was taken to the United Nations Human Rights Commission by Mrs Kirsty Sword Gusmao, the wife of East Timor's leader, Mr Xanana Gusmao.

"Everybody in the town had fled because of the conflict so I decided to look for Manek and left Suai with my mum and grandma," she said.

Wearing tight blue jeans, a denim jacket, gold necklace, gold earrings and gold bracelets, Juliana arrived at a government office in the West Timor border town of Atambua with a adhesive plaster over what appeared to be bruises under her right eye.

Asked about the bruises, she replied: "Oh, it's nothing. I just felt itchy. No, I've never been beaten or anything like that."

Manek, who accompanied Juliana, dominated the interview, insisting on answering most of the questions asked of her.

Calling Juliana the "mother of my child", Manek said Juliana could return home to East Timor if she wanted to.

"Tell her parents I will marry her and pay whatever they demand for the bride price," he said.

Juliana's aunt, Mrs Domingas Santa Mouzinho, and Ms Sword Gusmao have campaigned around the world for international pressure to be applied on Indonesia to secure Juliana's release.

Juliana was 15 when, her family says, she was abducted by Manek, who led Laksaur, a pro-Jakarta militia group blamed for some of the worst violence in East Timor in 1999.

But when asked her age by the Herald, Juliana said, "I will be 19 soon."

Juliana's family claim she is traumatised. They say that, at the height of the violence in East Timor, Juliana watched as Manek murdered her brother.

Evidence given to UN investigators alleges that a few days later Manek gave the order for the massacre of about 200 people who were sheltering in the grounds of the Suai church, including priests and nuns.

Juliana's aunt says she took her to the home of a popular Catholic priest, Father Hilario, one of those slashed to death on the church steps.

But Manek and some of his thugs came to the house and seized Juliana, claiming "this is the one I want to be my wife", she says.

When Mrs Mouzinho tried to stop Menek taking Juliana away, he fired a shot in the air.

Later the same day, Mrs Mouzinho says, Manek took Juliana to her mother and placed his gold chain around her neck, stating "now she is officially my wife".

That was the last Juliana's family saw of her. Mrs Sword Gusmao told a recent session of the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva that Juliana was taken by Manek and his men across the border into Indonesian West Timor.

After being paraded as a war trophy, Juliana was repeatedly raped and fell pregnant, Mrs Sword Gusmao alleged.

Juliana gave birth to a son, Hercules Carlos Amaral, on November 27 last year.

Mrs Sword Gusmao decided to take up the fight to reunite Juliana with her family after giving birth to her own son, Alexandre, on September 30 last year.

Mrs Sword Gusmao is also campaigning to free an unknown number of girls and women being held in militia-controlled refugee camps in West Timor in similar circumstances.

Juliana told the Herald that she was very excited to give birth to her son and "got along just fine" with Manek's other wives, who live in different houses.

She said she maintained contact with her mother, who had returned to East Timor, and other family members.

Juliana said she could not leave West Timor because she was emotionally attached to Manek.

"Besides, I have a baby now," she said. "It's difficult to travel with a baby. I felt sorry once. But anyway, just tell my family that I'm doing just fine. I'm happy with Manek. He will marry me."

But Sister Clara, a Catholic nun working in West Timor with the Jesuit Refugee Service who was present during the interview with the Herald, said she did not believe Juliana was telling the truth.

"I think she is not happy; the look on her face can't lie," Sister Clara said later. "Did you see the bruise on her cheek? She's in trouble."

A military officer said Indonesian authorities had investigated complaints by Juliana's family. "But we found the accusations unproven," the officer said.

"Juliana herself said that she was not kidnapped and that she loved Manek and travelled with him on her own choice."

Manek said in the interview that the accusations against him were false.

"Let them sue me in the international court," he said. "I'll be there to prove my innocence."

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