Subject: NZPA: Confidence in Manning trial going ahead

Otago Daily Times

Confidence in Timor trial going ahead

NZPA Staff Correspondent

Wellington: An Indonesian police team gathering evidence against a man suspected of murdering New Zealand soldier Private Leonard Manning is confident it will have the case before the court in two months.

The six-strong team, headed by the vice-police chief of East Nusa Tenggara province, Senior Superintendent Gories Mere, arrived in New Zealand on Monday to speak to witnesses and gather evidence for their case against former pro-Indonesia militia commander Jakobus Bere.

Bere, arrested in West Timor earlier this year for the killing, is awaiting trial. Another four suspects have yet to be apprehended.

Mr Mere told reporters yesterday that with the co-operation of the New Zealand Government and its police, the investigation into Pte Manning's death could be concluded within two months and would proceed to Indonesian prosecutors and immediately to trial.

Pte Manning, serving as a United Nations peacekeeper, was killed in East Timor on July 24 last year.

The investigation into his death was held up while the United Nationals Transitional Government in East Timor and Indonesian police officials decided who would investigate.

The UN demanded Jakarta extradite Bere to face trial in East Timor. However, Indonesia said it would not allow him to be tried abroad.

Under a memorandum of understanding signed in June, it was decided the case would be investigated by Indonesian authorities and Bere would be tried under Indonesian law, Mr Mere said.

If found guilty of well planned murder, the equivalent of first degree murder, Bere could face the death penalty or life in prison.

For murder (second degree murder) he could go to jail for 15 years.

Although the militiaman reportedly confessed to the killing, Indonesian authorities said recently the trial was in doubt due to a dispute over evidence.

Mr Mere admitted the investigation was hampered by the fact the crime scene was in East Timor, the suspect was Indonesian and lived there, and the witnesses, experts and some evidence was in New Zealand.

While the team was in New Zealand, members of the second New Zealand Battalion group, which Pte Manning belonged to, would be spoken to.

Some of his belongings, including clothing and a gun, were being taken back to Indonesia as evidence.

Other civilian witnesses in Atambua, the West Timor town near the border with East Timor, were still to be interviewed, Mr Mere said.

Wednesday, 18-July 2001

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