Deadline passes for challenges to East Timorese election candidates: UN mission

Deadline passes for challenges to East Timorese election candidates: UN mission

With Wednesday passing as the final deadline for East Timorese to challenge the list of proposed candidates for the upcoming elections, the United Nations transitional administration today said that all political parties and independent candidates had been officially registered.

In all, 16 East Timorese political parties and 17 national and district independent candidates have registered with the UN transitional administration's Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) for the 30 August elections.

Overall, nearly 1,000 East Timorese are now officially registered to run for an 88-member Constituent Assembly, which will comprise 75 national seats and 13 district seats. The Assembly will have 90 days to write and adopt a Constitution for the soon-to-be-independent territory, which is currently run by the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET).

In other news, four defendants charged with the torture and murder of an independence supporter in East Timor's first crimes against humanity trial admitted today to being present at the killing but denied they were responsible for the man's death.

The Special Panel for Serious Crimes heard testimony from four alleged members of the Team Alpha militia in a bid to determine responsibility for the torture and murder in September 1999 in Lautem District of Evaristo Lopes.

Three of the four defendants admitted to kicking and beating Mr. Lopes, while Joni Marques, an alleged leader of Team Alpha, who yesterday confessed to his participation in the incident, denied torturing the victim but admitted to cutting off his hair with a machete.

In further testimony today, Mr. Marques reiterated that it was the former deputy commander of the Indonesian military special forces in Lautem, Syaful Anwar, who killed Mr. Lopes by beating him with an iron bar. Mr. Anwar, the eleventh suspect indicted in the case, is still at large.

All four defendants also denied knowing that their actions were part of a widespread or systematic attack upon the civilian population of East Timor, a key element, according to the prosecutor, in determining whether the defendants' actions constituted crimes against humanity.