Subject: AU: Political post for East Timor accused


Political post for East Timor accused

Sian Powell, Jakarta correspondent

February 23, 2006

INDICTED for crimes against humanity by Indonesia and East Timor, feared militia leader Eurico Guterres has now been elected regional chairman of one of Indonesia's larger political parties.

Guterres, previously associated with Indonesia's two main parties - Golkar and the Democratic Party of Struggle - will head the National Mandate Party's (PAN) East Nusa Tenggara chapter, which takes in West Timor.

A nationalist hero to some prominent Indonesians, the 34- year-old, who has so far evaded jail, said his conviction for war crimes was "no problem".

"There's no connection with me becoming the leader of the party," he told The Australian yesterday, adding that he had always supported PAN.

Guterres led the Aitarak militia based in Dili, East Timor, in 1999 and publicly incited his followers to kill independence supporters. His orders were followed with relish, and immediately after his speech at a pro-autonomy rally, he led his gang to attack the house of pro-independence leader Manuel Carrascalao. Twelve people were killed, including Carrascalao's 17-year-old son.

Convicted by the ad hoc tribunal Indonesia established after intense international pressure, Guterres was sentenced to 10 years in prison. On appeal, this was reduced to five years. A second appeal to Indonesia's Supreme Court has been pending for 20 months, while Guterres has been free in Indonesia. The native East Timorese was also indicted for crimes against humanity by the UN-backed Serious Crimes Unit in East Timor.

As chief of one of the most savage militias in East Timor, Guterres was directly involved in the carnage before and after the independence ballot. More than 1500 East Timorese died in the violence, towns were razed and as many as 250,000 people were forcibly transported to Indonesia.

The militia leaders fled across the border. None of them have been punished for the crimes of 1999, and many, like Guterres, have forged new lives.

In 2001, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Indonesia should move "quickly and decisively against Guterres".

"As I have made clear previously, Guterres is one of the most prominent and notorious of the militia leaders," he said.

"We are deeply disappointed that he has not been brought to justice for his involvement in the human rights abuses that occurred in East Timor."

Nearly six years after the carnage, Guterres has not served a prison term, and he has the support of leading Indonesian politicians, especially those in PAN.

One of Indonesia's larger political parties, with 10 per cent of the seats in the House of Representatives, PAN was for a long time led by the highly respected politician Amien Rais, once the speaker of the national parliament and a former presidential contender. Guterres has said that Mr Rais personally invited him to join PAN.

PAN executive Muhammad Najib said Guterres's conviction was irrelevant. "That case is outside our authority, it's the business of the Government," he said. "If later he is found guilty (by the Supreme Court) we will study the case, and there are concrete rules for that."

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