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Friday, 16 February, 2001, 11:16 GMT
East Timor militiamen on trial
East Timor militia
More than 1,000 died in massacres blamed on militias
By Richard Galpin in Jakarta

A group of pro-Indonesian militia men has gone on trial in East Timor charged with the murder of 13 people - including nuns, priests and students - following the vote for independence in1999.

The 10 men on trial in Dili, the capital, are the first to be tried in East Timor for crimes against humanity.

The authorities in Dili have also issued a warrant for the arrest of the man accused of leading the attack - an Indonesian army officer who is still at large in Indonesia.

The attack in September 1999 was one of the most shocking of the long campaign against supporters of independence organised by the Indonesian military and implemented by the pro-Jakarta militias.

Hacked with machetes

The men are accused of ambushing a van carrying three priests, two nuns, several seminary students and a journalist, who were trying to deliver food and medicine to refugees near the eastern town of Los Palos.

Graves in East Timor
One student was tied to a tree and slashed to death
Some of those who survived the volley of bullets were later hacked to death with machetes.

Amongst the victims was a 69-year-old Italian nun, Ermina Cazzaniga, who had been living in East Timor since the 1960s.

The team of prosecutors under the United Nations administration in East Timor has brought several murder cases to court involving the pro-Jakarta militias.


One man, Joao Fernandes, has already been sentenced to 12 years in prison for murdering a pro-independence activist.

Timor militias
Militias could face charges of mass destruction
But the vast majority of those responsible for the violence, in which at least 1,000 people were killed were able to escape to Indonesia.

And so far the government in Jakarta has refused to extradite anyone, whether from the security forces or the militias.

With little progress being made by Indonesian prosecutors to get any trials underway, pressure is again mounting for an international human rights tribunal.

Early this week senior politicians in the United States Senate called on President George Bush to support the idea.

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See also:

25 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
First Timor militiaman sentenced
11 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Timor murder suspects on trial
22 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Timor militia trial to go ahead
02 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Timor militia chief goes on trial
23 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
Militia chief could go free
12 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
UN may quiz Timor suspect
25 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
Indonesia arms crackdown 'pathetic'
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