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Wednesday, 14 August, 2002, 11:52 GMT 12:52 UK
E Timor governor jailed over violence
Abilio Soares
Soares said he was being made a scapegoat
An Indonesian court has passed down the first human rights verdict concerning East Timor, sentencing its former governor to three years in jail.

Abilio Soares, who was in charge of the then-Indonesian province during a bloody 1999 independence vote, was found guilty of two counts of "gross rights violations".

The judge in the special human rights court found Soares guilty of failing to prevent violence involving his subordinates.

Indonesian-backed militias on the rampage in 1999
Pro-Indonesian militias are accused of carrying out massacres
Soares, who said he would appeal, claimed he was being made a scapegoat.

"How can I, one person, disband a militia which is armed with spears, axes and guns?" he said.

At least 1,000 East Timorese were killed by pro-Jakarta militias ahead of and after the vote, which led to East Timor gaining independence in May 2002.

The prosecution had called for Soares to be jailed for 10-and-a-half years, claiming he did nothing to stop four massacres.

Lenient

Prosecutors also said they would appeal against the sentence, which was seen as possibly setting a precedent for other human rights cases involving members of the Indonesian military.

But Judge Emmy Marni Mustafa said Soares had been given a lighter sentence because of a call for leniency from East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao, who wrote to the court in July saying Soares should not be singled out.

The verdict was the first from a series of trials involving 18 suspects accused of carrying out or failing to control massacres of East Timorese civilians in 1999.

The conviction set legal history in Indonesia, which had never before prosecuted anyone for crimes against humanity.

Correspondents said the Indonesian Government was under enormous pressure to be seen to be pursuing justice in the case of Soares and other suspects.

Human rights groups have criticised the trials, saying senior military figures thought to have orchestrated the pro-Jakarta militias are not in the dock.

The United Nations has also warned that failure to punish those responsible could lead to an international tribunal being created.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Richard Galpin
"The verdict came as a shock to everyone"
Jose Amorim Dias, East Timor representative to UK
"The Indonesian generals or members of the army who have been killing are the real culprits"

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11 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
23 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
10 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
13 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
14 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
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