Wed, Jan 03, 2001 - Page 1 News List

Indonesian militia leader defiant at start of trial for East Timor massacres

AFP , JAKARTA

An Indonesian militia leader wanted in connection with massacres in East Timor went on trial yesterday for allegedly ordering his men to snatch back surrendered weapons.

Wearing army fatigues, a bandana in the red and white colors of the Indonesian national flag, sunglasses and black beret, Eurico Guterres was cheered by supporters as he walked into the North Jakarta district court.

"Long live Eurico," shouted the supporters, some of them Indonesian veterans of the war in the former Portuguese colony, who packed the courtroom gallery.

The leader of the feared Aitarak (Thorn) militia, Guterres was arrested at a hotel here on Oct. 4 for allegedly inciting criminal activities against the state by ordering his men to snatch back the weapons handed over to police in West Timor.

They had been handed over during a ceremony in September attended by Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

He faces up to six years in jail if convicted.

The case is unrelated to the militia-led violence which devastated East Timor following its independence vote in August 1999. In separate proceedings, UN prosecutors have implicated Guterres in two massacres in East Timor and have formally asked Indonesia to hand over the militia boss to them.

At yesterday's hearing prosecutor Anwar Hakim Nasution also lodged two auxiliary charges against Guterres, to be dealt with in order if the main charge is not proven, as stipulated under Indonesian legal procedures.

Asked by the chief judge Suwardi, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, whether he understood the charges, Guterres said: "I understand but I also do not understand."

The judge agreed to a demand by Guterres' lawyer, Suhardi Sumomulyono, to adjourn the case for a week.

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