Subject: SMH: Diggers trained me, says Timor thug

Sydney Morning Herald August 10, 2001

Diggers trained me, says Timor thug

By Mark Dodd in Dili and Craig Skehan in Canberra

An East Timorese militia leader who served in the Indonesian Army's special forces and is on trial for war crimes - including the murder of a nun - says he was trained by Australian soldiers.

Joni Marques, a 37-year-old East Timorese, told his Dili trial that he had played the role of a Falintil pro-independence guerilla in an exercise involving Australian and Indonesian troops in Java in 1993.

In 1986, he had helped the Indonesian military set up Team Alpha, one of the first pro-Indonesian militias in East Timor, and had been recruited to Kopassus, Indonesia's special forces.

Australian military sources said that the Australian unit most likely to have been involved in the exercise was the elite Perth-based Special Air Service Regiment.

The SAS took part in several exercises with Kopassus in the early 1990s but Australia had abandoned this practice in 1998 after months of damaging publicity over the Indonesian unit, which is accused of widespread abuses in East Timor, Aceh, Irian Jaya (West Papua) and elsewhere.

A Defence Department spokesman, Mr Tim Bloomfield, said that it was a matter of record that the Australian Defence Force had trained Indonesian soldiers but "it was not until 1998 that there were militias as we now know them".

"We certainly have not trained any militias," he said.

A spokesmen for the Foreign Minister, Mr Downer, said questions about the training of Indonesians by Australia was a matter for the former Labor government and the Opposition Leader, Mr Beazley, who was defence minister at the time.

Last month the former Labor foreign minister, Mr Gareth Evans, said that "many of our earlier training efforts helped only to produce more professional human rights abusers".

The Herald has obtained a transcript of the evidence given by Marque at East Timor's first war crimes trial on July 11.

He did not identify the Australian unit involved in his training but said that during war games devised by the Australians he had played the role of a guerilla being pursued by Australian troops.

Marques is one of 10 defendants, all members of the Team Alfa militia which he commanded, facing 13 counts of murder, assault, kidnapping, torture, persecution and forced deportation of civilians between April and September 1999.

A serving member of Kopassus, Lieutenant Saiful Anwar, has also been charged and is believed to be at large in Indonesia.

The prosecution alleges that Marques took part in the torture and murder of Evaristo Lopes, a Falintil member, in April 1999.

He is also accused of planning the ambush and murder of a group of clergy, church workers, an Indonesian journalist and a teenage boy near Los Palos on September 25, 1999. It is also alleged that he shot dead a wounded nun.

Marques told the court he had been selected for specialist training by the former Kopassus commander Lieutenant-General Probowo Subianto, son-in-law of the disgraced former president Soeharto.

He said the training took place in 1984 at Los Palos and Bandung, Java, in 1993. Australian soldiers had been involved in the Bandung training.

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