Thu, 05 Oct 2000

Police arrest prointegration leader Eurico

JAKARTA (JP): Police officers arrested on Wednesday prointegration militia leader Eurico Guterres at a hotel in Central Jakarta for allegedly hampering ongoing police weapons sweeping operations in Atambua, East Nusa Tenggara.

National Police chief Gen. Surojo Bimantoro said the police had obtained enough evidence to apprehend Eurico from witnesses' testimonies and from photographs and videotapes. The evidence apparently indicates that he gave the order for the repossession of arms surrendered by the militia in Atambua last month.

"Witnesses have testified that he (Eurico) said to his men: 'Take back the weapons'," he told journalists after a meeting with members of the National Commission on Human Rights.

Bimantoro said Eurico would be charged under Article 160 of the Criminal Code for instigating a crime. The article carries a maximum sentence of six years imprisonment.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Marzuki Darusman said Eurico had been arrested to facilitate the police investigation into the incident, which took place during Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri's visit to the region on Sept. 24.

"However, he is still expected to appear for questioning at the Attorney General's Office on Friday as a suspect in human rights abuses in East Timor last year," he said at his office.

Separately, newly installed National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Saleh Saaf said at least 15 firearms, consisting of standard military rifles and homemade weapons, had been stolen from the police headquarters in Atambua upon Eurico's instructions.

Security forces have confiscated 89 military standard rifles, 1,111 homemade guns, 38 units of explosive materials, 5,002 bullets of various types, 28 gun magazines and 12 grenade launchers since Sept. 24, Saleh said.

Eurico was earlier named a suspect by the Attorney General's Office for his alleged involvement in an attack on proindependence leader Manuel Carrascalao's house in Dili in April last year in which at least 12 East Timorese were killed.

Eurico's lawyer Suhardi Sumomoeljono claimed that the police had arrested his client without a warrant.

"Eurico said he was asked by the police only to appear at the National Police Headquarters to talk about a matter which was of national importance," Suhardi told reporters at the police headquarters after seeing his client.

"But it turned out that he was detained by the police," he said.

Suhardi's claim, however, was dismissed by Saleh, who said the police had a warrant for Eurico's arrest.

In a related development, Saleh hinted that the police had arrested two men in connection with the killing of three UN aid workers on Sept. 6 in Atambua.

The two, identified as Julius Naesana and Sisto Pareira, were arrested on Monday following a tip-off. Four more suspects are still at large.

Political analyst and vice director of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Johannes Kristiadi believes that Eurico's arrest would not provoke unrest.

"I doubt that his arrest will trigger further unrest or revolt by his followers, but the main source of the problem here is the thousands of frustrated refugees in West Timor.

"The refugees can be easily manipulated and led into conflict by provocateurs, as they are hungry, tired and poor," Kristiadi said after a seminar on the military here on Wednesday.

Separately, former Army Special Force (Kopassus) chief Lt. Gen. (ret) Prabowo Subianto dismissed the allegations that he was seen dining with Eurico in the West Nusa Tenggara capital of Kupang last July, suggesting continued military collusion with the militia.

"I have never had dinner with Guterres in Kupang ... I have never even met Guterres personally," Prabowo said in a letter dated Sept. 24 to the Far Eastern Economic Review.

Prabowo was referring to an article, titled Jakarta's Shame, which appeared in the Sept. 21, 2000 edition of the magazine. The magazine quoted western intelligence agents who claimed to have seen Prabowo in Kupang three times this year, most recently on Aug. 31. (bby/jaw/edt)