Subject: Portugal guarding Timor militia chief's family

Portugal guarding Timor militia chief's family

LISBON, Aug 1 (Reuters) - Portugal has put the family of a former Timorese militia leader under 24-hour guard because of death threats, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Wednesday.

The wife and four children of former pro-Indonesia militia chief Eurico Guterres have been in Portugal for about a month and are under tight security, spokesman Horacio Vale Cesar said.

"This is not a political case," he said. "This has everything to do with the physical and psychological welfare of the woman and children involved."

Guterres led the Indonesian-backed militia in the bloody run-up to the 1999 referendum that set the tiny Southeast Asian territory of East Timor on the road to independence.

An Indonesian court convicted him of inciting violence and he was released from jail in June. Guterres is also a supporter of new Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Vale Cesar said Guterres and his wife were separated. However, the couple were still married.

He added that they had been granted entry to Portugal under a law covering East Timorese citizens.

Portugal's ambassador in Indonesia had received reliable information that the family's lives were in danger. The threats came not only from pro-independence Timorese but other groups, Vale Cesar said.

East Timor, a former Portuguese colony, was ruled by Indonesia for 23 years until the 1999 referendum. It is under U.N. administration.

Enrico Borges, cultural officer at the East Timor mission in Lisbon, said he welcomed the protection given to the family.

"We'd like to emphasise the greatness of the gesture Portugal has made on humanitarian grounds," he said.

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