Monday, 23 June 2008

Freed ex-militia boss

Dili, Timor-Leste 23/06/2008 12:10 (LUSA)
Temas: Crime, lei e justiça, Direitos humanos

Dili, June 23 (Lusa) - Former East Timor
militia chief Joni Marques, pardoned and released
on parole this month after serving part of a long
prison sentence for leading a massacre of nuns
and priests in 1999, said Monday he was “repentant” for his crimes.

Marques, ex-leader of the pro-Jakarta Team
Alfa militia, told Lusa he was “repentant for the
violence of 1999.” He was jailed in 2001 for 33
years after being convicted of participation in
an attack on a convoy of nuns and priests between
Lautém and Baucau on Sept. 25, 1999.

Recalling the lead-up to the deadly attack,
the former militiaman said “there was no plan to
kill the nuns,” adding that himself and his men
had been “drugged” by Indonesian Army officers
before the massacre and had no recollection of
the attack on the church vehicles.

“Twenty minutes after taking the drugs I
lost judgment. And that (the massacre) happened.
Only three days later did I return to normal and
understand what I’d done. I was repentant and dismayed."

Along with Marques, another three members of
Team Alfa convicted of violence in 1999 were
released June 13 after receiving presidential
pardons in May. One of these former militiamen,
Gonçalo dos Santos, told Lusa at the weekend: “The past is the past”.

Speaking in his home village in the
mountains west of Lospalos, dos Santos said: “I
don’t dwell on 1999. I think about a new life.
I’m an East Timorese citizen and I’m not going to leave the country.”

The paroling of the four ex-Team Alfa
militiamen has come under fire from various human
rights organizations, including the Dili
representative for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR).

But neither of the freed militiamen
interviewed by Lusa questioned the scale of their
sentence reduction in the wake of President José
Ramos Horta’s decision May 20 to grant pardons
and commute sentences after discussions with the Dili government.

Speaking at a camp for displaced people
where his family has been living since 2006, Joni
Marques, 44, told Lusa: “I won’t comment on
whether the sentencing was just of unjust. I
didn’t appeal to the state when I was in jail.
I’m not going to appeal while I’m free. The law is the law.”

“If anybody wants to appeal against me being
free, go to Parliament of the President of the Republic.”

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