Subject: Gusmao regrets jailing of former East Timor governor

AFP, July 19, 2004

Gusmao regrets jailing of former East Timor governor

DILI: East Timor President Xanana Gusmao said on Monday he was disappointed with the jailing of the territory's former governor for crimes against humanity during its bloody 1999 breakaway from Indonesia.

Abilio Soares, East Timor's last governor under Indonesian rule, on Saturday began serving a three-year jail term imposed by an Indonesian human rights court.

He is the first of six people who were convicted by the court to start serving a prison sentence.

"What can I say? I'm very disappointed. You all remember the letter I wrote to the panel of judges in the ad hoc tribunal (asking for leniency for Soares)," Gusmao told reporters.

Gusmao also spoke of a May 1999 agreement signed in New York between Indonesia and Portugal, which stated that the Indonesian security forces were responsible for security during the August 1999 referendum on independence.

In 2002 Gusmao wrote to judges at the Indonesian human rights court asking them to show leniency to Soares. Gusmao said Soares had tried to promote peace and his self-imposed exile must be considered punishment in itself.

The human rights court acquitted 11 security force members and one civilian over the Indonesian army-backed militia violence against East Timorese independence supporters, which killed at least 1,400 people.

Three army officers, a former Dili police chief and a militia leader remain free pending appeals against their convictions and prison terms. Soares, an ethnic East Timorese, says he has been made a scapegoat for the police and military.

Human rights defenders have described the Indonesian rights court as largely a sham designed to fend off calls for an international tribunal into the violence.

The Supreme Court recently rejected an appeal by Soares but his lawyer said he is seeking a judicial review of the case.

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