Subject: Court Frees Former ETimor Militia Leader Eurico Guterres

also: AFP: Indonesia Releases Former East Timor Militia Leader; Ex-E. Timor militia leader Guterres acquitted

The Jakarta Post

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Court Frees Militia Leader Eurico

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Former militia leader Eurico Guterres, convicted of crimes against humanity in East Timor, has been cleared of rights violations by the Supreme Court, his lawyer said here Friday.

Suhardi Sumo Mulyono said the Supreme Court cleared his client on the strength of new evidence in the case.

"He is practically free now." Suhardi told The Jakarta Post. "We hope he'll be able to leave prison soon."

The Supreme Court confirmed the acquittal of Eurico.

"New evidence was accepted so we declared in our verdict he is free," presiding judge Iskandar Kamil told Tempointeraktif news portal.

Suhardi said the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Eurico due to a "new development and new evidence" submitted by the defendant's lawyers that highlighted an "error" in the previous verdict.

"I believe the Supreme Court accepted our arguments, which included new testimony from witnesses who prosecutors claimed had died, but in fact are still alive," Suhardi said.

"Also, the argument that a defendant cannot be found guilty if a court decides that another defendant in the same case is not guilty," he said.

The lawyer was referring to the acquittal of former East Timor governor Abilio Jose Soares by the Supreme Court on similar charges leveled against Eurico.

The decision overturned a March 2006 verdict by the same court sentencing Eurico to 10 years in prison for human rights violations during violence in East Timor after pro-independence parties won a 1999 referendum to break away from Indonesia.

The sentence was consistent with a verdict handed down on Nov. 27, 2002, by an ad-hoc human rights court in Jakarta.

Eurico, who is serving his sentence at Cipinang Penitentiary, East Jakarta, was "touched" by the latest verdict, Suhardi said.

He is the latest person charged over the violence in East Timor to be acquitted. In addition to Abilio, all military and police officers charged were acquitted by the ad-hoc rights court. (anw)


Indonesia Releases Former East Timor Militia Leader

JAKARTA, April 5 (AFP)--Indonesia's Supreme Court has cleared the only person jailed over the violence surrounding East Timor's 1999 vote for independence, a judge said Saturday.

Former East Timorese militia leader Eurico Guterres was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment in May 2006 by a tribunal trying military officers and officials for atrocities in East Timor.

The Supreme Court overturned the verdict on appeal.

Supreme Judge Joko Sarwoko told AFP that Guterres "was not proven to have structural command to coordinate attacks, even if he was the leader of the militia, so he could not be held responsible for the violence".

Sarwoko said Guterres would be freed as soon as next week after "the verdict is handed out to the attorney general's office on Monday for execution". The judge said the verdict, announced late Friday, was reached on March 14.

Judge Iskandar Kamil was quoted by state news agency Antara as saying that Guterres was "free from all charges" and "entitled to rehabilitation of his name and receive compensation from the state".

Guterres headed the Aitarak or Thorn militia which terrorized residents of the East Timor capital Dili ahead of the 1999 U.N.-backed referendum that saw the East Timorese vote in favor of breaking away from Indonesia.

The tiny half-island nation of 1 million people became independent in 2002.

Pro-Indonesian militia groups, nurtured and backed by the Indonesian armed forces and police, went on a killing spree following the pro-independence results of the ballot. Some 1,400 people were killed in the violence.

All other defendants besides Guterres that have faced trial have been acquitted or had their convictions overturned on appeal.


Ex-E. Timor militia leader Guterres acquitted

Christine T. Tjandraningsih

JAKARTA, April 4 (Kyodo News) -- Former pro-Jakarta East Timor militia leader Eurico Guterres, who had been jailed in Indonesia since 2006 for having committed gross human rights violations in East Timor in 1999, has been acquitted, a Supreme Court judge said Friday.

''We found new evidence which was enough to acquit him,'' Justice Iskandar Kamil, who led a panel dealing with Guterres' judicial review, told Kyodo News.

The ''new evidence,'' he clarified, consisted of earlier court rulings to acquit other individuals implicated in the violence that occurred prior to, during and after a referendum for independence in East Timor in 1999.

With the acquittal of Guterres, all 18 individuals who were implicated in the East Timor violence, under pressure on Indonesia from the international community to act, have now been acquitted.

On March 13, 2006, the Supreme Court overturned an August 2004 ruling by the Ad Hoc Human Rights Appeal Tribunal that had halved the prison term for Guterres. It restored the original 10-year term set by the Ad Hoc Human Rights Tribunal and he began his jail term two months later.

The Ad Hoc Human Rights Tribunal, set up to try those who allegedly committed crimes against humanity before, during and after East Timor's bloody vote for independence, had handed down the 10-year sentence to Guterres in November 2002.

Guterres was jailed for failing to control his men on April 17, 1999, when they attacked 136 pro-independence refugees taking shelter at the residence of pro-independence leader Manuel Viegas Carrascalao, killing 12 people, including Carrascalao's son.

Guterres' men also attacked and damaged the residence of Leandro Isaac, another pro-independence leader, later the same day.

Militia groups, allegedly armed and supported by the Indonesian military, in April 1999 began escalating their acts of violence and intimidation against pro-independence East Timorese in the run-up to the U.N.-organized referendum on independence held Aug. 30 that year.

Soon after the results of the vote were announced Sept. 4 that year, the militia groups launched a campaign of violence and destruction across East Timor, which was a Portuguese colony for more than 400 years before being invaded by Indonesia in 1975.

Hundreds of people were killed, hundred thousands more forcibly displaced and 70 percent of the territory's buildings and houses were destroyed.

The small half-island became fully independent on May 2002 after more than 24 years under Indonesian occupation and two-and-a-half years under U.N. transitional administration.

A report compiled by the U.N.-sponsored Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation concluded that more than 100,000 people were killed or disappeared during Indonesia's 24-year occupation.

The report said many were subjected to human rights violations, including torture, starvation, sexual violence and napalm attacks.

But East Timor's government has ruled out the idea of seeking justice at an international tribunal and has instead made efforts to build a close relationship with its former occupier and giant neighbor.

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