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Indonesia Charges Notorious East Timorese Militia Commander - 2002-06-03

Indonesia has charged a notorious East Timorese militia commander and six other suspects with crimes against humanity committed in 1999 as East Timor prepared to vote for independence. The seven will face trial before Indonesia's special human rights court.

Indonesia's Attorney General's office said it will soon announce a trial date for militia-leader Eurico Guterres and the other six suspects indicted Monday.

Mr. Guterres was the leader of the "Aitark" or "Thorn" militia. His group is alleged to have been supported by some elements of the Indonesian military, opposed to East Timor breaking away from Indonesia. Mr. Guterres is charged with crimes against humanity for "inciting" his followers to attack the home of prominent independence leader Manuel Carrascalao, in April 1999. Twelve people, including Mr. Carrascalao's son, were killed.

The six other suspects are all charged with crimes against humanity for "failing to prevent" subordinates from attacking civilians in other incidents.

Twenty-five people have been indicted for atrocities committed in connection with East Timor's August 1999 independence ballot.

Indonesia, under intense international pressure to bring those responsible to justice, set up a special human rights court earlier this year. Critics say Indonesia has failed to charge high-ranking military officers - whom they say masterminded the violence. They also complain that no one has been indicted for having any direct responsibility for the atrocities.

Joaquim Fonseca is with East Timor's largest human rights group, Yayasan Hak. He said most of the indictments use a less serious charge of "failing to prevent crimes." One such case involves East Timor's former governor, Abilio Soares. "If we look at the indictment, the accusation against Mr. Abilio Soares says it is about omission. He was accused of omission, failing to prevent. But that is not what he did," he said. "Yes, he failed to prevent certain things that he could have prevented. But he was also actively involved in supporting, aiding the activities of the militias." None of those indicted Monday are in custody.