Wed, 18 Oct 2000

Eurico asks court to release him

JAKARTA (JP): Lawyers for former East Timor prointegration leader Eurico Guterres insisted on Tuesday the National Police had no authority to arrest their client.

One of the lawyers, Suhardi Somomoeljono, said during a hearing at the South Jakarta District Court only the Belu Police in East Nusa Tenggara were authorized to arrest their client based on the charges against him.

"That's why we ask the court to declare the arrest of our client unlawful and order the National Police to release our client from custody," Suhardi said.

Officers from the National Police Headquarters arrested Eurico on Oct. 4 following reports by the Belu Police that the 28-year- old allegedly ordered fellow ex-East Timorese militiamen to take back weapons they had surrendered during an arms handover ceremony on Sept. 24 in Atambua, located near the East Nusa Tenggara border with East Timor.

Suhardi refuted police arguments that Eurico was arrested in Jakarta because it was difficult to locate him in East Nusa Tenggara.

"He (Eurico) even went to East Nusa Tenggara Police Headquarters on Sept. 30 to ask for permission to visit Jakarta," Suhardi said.

Eurico had been staying in Atambua along with some 130,000 East Timorese who streamed into West Timor following last year's referendum which resulted in independence for the former Indonesian province.

Suhardi also insisted Eurico was not included on a list of wanted persons, another reason cited by police for their arrest of the former militia leader.

The lawyer said his client went to Jakarta to be questioned about his alleged involvement in last year's atrocities in East Timor.

Eurico was arrested at 11 p.m at his hotel room in Central Jakarta.

Suhardi claimed police issued the arrest warrant for Eurico, No. Pol. SPP/88/X/2000 dated Oct. 4, only eight hours after his client had been arrested and questioned in two separate sessions.

"This is a violation of Article 109 of the Criminal Code Procedures, which requires police to send prior notice to state prosecutors before conducting any questioning," Suhardi said.

He said the police told him the arrest warrant would be given to his client after the questioning was completed.

He also refuted the police's claim that Eurico was arrested because of fears he might flee, destroy evidence or commit other crimes.

"Of course, such reasons were fabricated. My client is a warrior and he will always act with true sportsmanship," Suhardi said.

The lawyer added that as soon as Eurico was taken to National Police Headquarters, he was told that he was under arrest for breaking Article 106 of the Criminal Code.

The crime carries a maximum punishment of six years in prison.

Suhardi said the arrest did not comply with legal procedures as laid out in Article 17 of the Criminal Code Procedures, which obliges police to present evidence and an arrest warrant before making an arrest.

Police lawyers told the same court on Monday the arrest had been made according to all existing procedures.

Presiding judge I.D.G. Putra Yadnya adjourned the pretrial hearing until Wednesday.(01)