Joao Franca da Silva
Kaer Metin Merah Putih militia leader, Lolotoe sub-district, Bobonaro district
Nicknamed Jhoni Franca, this militia leader was in February 2001 indicted for crimes against humanity in Dili. The case went to trial in Dili District Court in March 2002. He faced trial together with fellow militia leader Jose Cardoso Ferreira (nicknamed Mouzinho) and former village chief Sabino Gouveia Leite (the latter listed here under his superior Guilherme dos Santos). All three were in custody. Jhoni Franca was convicted on 29 October 2002 and sentenced to five years prison.
Two others indicted were Lolotoe sub-district military commander (Danramil) 2nd Lt Bambang Indra (here listed under his superior LtCol Burhanuddin Siagian), and civil servant Francisco Noronha (listed under Guilherme dos Santos). However, these two were at large in Indonesia and have thus far avoided a trial. Court documents say that the Kaer Metin Merah Putih militia received logistical support from the sub-district military command at Lolotoe.
The three on trial faced 27 charges of illegal imprisonment, murder, torture, rape, persecution and inhumane treatment of civilians in Lolotoe sub-district, located in Bobonaro district half-way between Maliana and Suai. Leite is accused of being an accomplice to the militia leaders, who committed the crimes together with the military. The crimes were committed between April and October 1999. 'For the people of Lolotoe the face of terror, the face of murder and the face of persecution are indeed the faces of the three accused before you,' lead prosecutor Essa Faal said. In one incident, the suspects cut off the ear of a victim and forced him to eat it, the prosecutors alleged.
It is the first time Untaet prosecutors have laid charges for sexual crimes. Court documents state that three female victims, referred to as Victims A, B and C (from another source known to be aged 19, 22, and 24), were detained repeatedly between May and July 1999, on the orders and by the actions of Jhoni Franca, Jose Cardoso Ferreira, Sabino Gouveia Leite, Francisco Noronha, and Bambang Indra. The victims were accused of working with Falintil. The same men, often carrying firearms, detained and repeatedly raped the victims between 26 June and 8 July 1999, including a week at Lolotoe Koramil headquarters, a week in Atambua in West Timor (using a government vehicle), and another week back in Lolotoe in a school building. They were then returned to their families with an official letter saying they had been given 'sexual guidance'. The letter was signed by the Koramil commander, the militia commander, and the village head from Zoilpo (Sabino Gouveia Leite).
The human rights organisation Fokupers listed Lolotoe as part of a network of places in East Timor where 'rape houses' were maintained - here women were abducted and held as virtual sex slaves. Hundreds are thought to have become victims.
Lolotoe was an area of great tension in 1999. The Indonesian government said that on 16 May Falintil ambushed and killed three Indonesian soldiers. UN officials believed Falintil was indeed responsible, but Amnesty International doubted it. At about this time the Kaer Metin Merah Putih militia took part in a large operation with TNI personnel against Falintil around Lolotoe that led to casualties on both sides. Veteran militia leader Joao Tavares allegedly directed the operation, and one of his sons was wounded.