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Last Updated:  Friday, 21 February, 2003, 10:55 GMT
Australian charged over E Timor
Anti-independence militia in East Timor
The violence began in 1999
A member of Australia's elite Special Air Service (SAS) has been charged with misconduct for allegedly kicking the corpse of a militia fighter in East Timor, the Australian Department of Defence has said.

This is the first charge brought as a result of an investigation into alleged brutality by Australian soldiers during a peacekeeping mission to East Timor in 1999.

The soldier - who has not been named - is alleged to have kicked the body of a pro-Indonesian militia fighter, killed in a battle with Australian troops near the town of Suai.

The Australian forces were in East Timor as part of a United Nations-backed mission, after a vote for independence sparked widespread violence.

Bodies exhumed

The Australian military revealed two years ago that it was investigating incidents of alleged brutality relating to the gun battle at Suai, on the border between East and West Timor.

Two militiamen were killed, nine wounded and more than 100 captured during the skirmish, which took place in October 1999.

The fighters belonged to the pro-Indonesian Laksaur group, responsible for some of the worst atrocities of the civil uprising.

Claims that some of the prisoners were badly treated, and even killed, led the UN to exhume the militiamen's corpses as part of its investigation.

The allegations have cast a shadow over Australia's role in leading the UN force in East Timor.

But Lieutenant-General Peter Leahy said the investigation should not undermine the army's peacekeeping efforts.

"They have done, and continue to do, a marvellous job of representing their country in bringing peace and security to East Timor," he said.

East Timor became the world's newest country in May 2002, when it finally celebrated full independence from Indonesia.

But a scaled-down UN peacekeeping mission is still stationed in the fledgling nation.





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SEE ALSO:
Australia accused of E Timor brutality
03 Oct 02 |  Asia-Pacific
Timeline: East Timor 1975 to 2002
17 May 02 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: East Timor
16 Dec 02 |  Country profiles
East Timor: Birth of a nation
19 May 02 |  Asia-Pacific


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