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First East Timor militiaman sentenced for crimes during 1999 popular consultation

First East Timor militiaman sentenced for crimes during 1999 popular consultation

An East Timor special panel for serious crimes has sentenced a former militia member to four years in prison for his role in a murder during the violent aftermath of the 1999 United Nations-run popular consultation.

The three-member panel of judges on Wednesday sent Mahidi militia member Anigio de Oliviera to prison after he was found guilty of being an accomplice to the murder of Fernando Gomes in Ainaro district on 5 September 1999. It was the first decision handed down by the panel, one of two currently deliberating serious crimes cases being pursued by prosecutors with the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET).

Meanwhile, a major crimes against humanity trial resumed yesterday, three-weeks after a defence-team bid to dismiss the three sitting judges was rejected by Judge Administrator Aderito Tilman.

All three defendants in the so-called "Lolotoe trial" - KMP militia commanders Jose Cardoso Ferreira and João França da Silva, and former Guda village chief Sabino Gouveia Leite - declined to give opening statements to the court. Witnesses called by the prosecution will be giving testimony when the trial resumes on 8 April.

The Lolotoe case is the second of 10 priority cases to be tried by the special panels. The three defendants have been accused of waging a campaign of deadly terror in Lolotoe sub-district, near the border with West Timor, Indonesia, during the months surrounding the 1999 popular consultation to decide the future of East Timor.

The two KMP commanders are accused of illegal imprisonment, murder, torture, rape, persecution and inhumane treatment of civilians. Mr. Gouveia Leite is accused of being an accomplice in the offences allegedly committed by the KMP and members of the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI).