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Former Indonesian Militia Leader Released from Jail

Just hours after being released following two years in a Jakarta prison, former pro-Jakarta militia leader Eurico Guterres announced plans to run for Indonesia's parliament next year. As VOA's Nancy-Amelia Collins reports from Jakarta, Guterres' 10-year sentence for human rights abuses committed during East Timor's vote for independence was overturned last week by Indonesia's supreme court.

Eurico Guterres, the pro-Jakarta militia leader serving a 10-year jail sentence for crimes against humanity, walked out of Jakarta's Cipinang prison, late Monday evening, two days after the supreme court over turned his conviction.

Guterres, who studied law while in prison, says he will return to West Timor to visit his family before returning to Jakarta to continue his studies and prepare to run for parliament elections, next year.

Guterres was the only person jailed for the post-election violence after East Timorese voted for independence from Indonesia in 1999. Seventeen other suspects indicted by Jakarta prosecutors were eventually set free, following acquittals by the supreme court and the appellate court.

At least 1,000 people were killed and much of the country's infrastructure destroyed by angry pro-Jakarta militias, backed by the Indonesian army, after East Timorese voted overwhelmingly for independence from Indonesia's 24-year rule.

A lawyer for Guterres, Mahendratta, says his client does not intend to seek compensation from the government for his time in prison.

"We all happy because we can prove the truth to the supreme court and he has been released," he said. "Eurico Guterres said that he will not keep hard feelings to the government of Indonesia and he will not sue the government of Indonesia."

International and national human rights groups have criticized Indonesia's failure to bring those responsible for the violence in East Timor to justice.

In 2005, Indonesia and East Timor formed a joint truth commission to investigate the violence surrounding the independence vote.

But the truth commission does not have any power to prosecute and can recommend amnesty for those found guilty of major crimes.

The United Nations is boycotting the commission because of the amnesty provision.

Usman Hamid, from the Indonesian human rights group Kontras, calls on the international community to support an international tribunal.

"This is very important in Indonesia, not only in regards to international community, to make sure that those responsible for crimes against humanity be prosecuted in international ad hoc tribunal," Hamid said. "But also it is important to improve Indonesian national legal system so that in the future we won't have this kind of violence take place again."

East Timor, a former Portuguese colony, has been independent since 2002.