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Leonito Martins

District head (bupati) of Liquica

On 22 November 2001 Leonito Martins was indicted in absentia before the Special Panel for Serious Crimes of the Dili District Court for crimes against humanity over the Liquica church massacre of 6 April 1999. On 31 May 2002 he was similarly indicted before the Ad Hoc Human Rights Court in Indonesia.[1]

Leonito Martins comes from Vatuboro (Fatuboro) village, on the main road west of Maubara, near Liquica. He completed high school education under the Portuguese, then went on to an academy for bureaucrats in Jakarta (APDN) after the Indonesian annexation. Upon graduation he was appointed subdistrict head in Maubara in 1976, then subdistrict head in Bazartete (also in Liquica district) in 1984. Afterwards he held government posts in Dili before becoming Liquica district head or regent in 1995. He was an honorary member of Kopassus.

Martins worked closely with civil servant Manuel de Sousa to establish Liquica's Besi Merah Putih militia in December 1998. This followed meetings at Leonito Martins' private residence in Maubara in mid-1998 to discuss how TNI, the police and local government officials could cooperate to eliminate the CNRT. Present at these meetings were Martins himself, Dato Liquica sub-district head Augustinho Alves Correia, Manuel de Sousa, Maubara sub-district head Jose Afat, Maubara sub-district military commander Sgt Carlos Amaral (a Kopassus man), and Liquica military district intelligence officer Sgt Tome Diogo, all of whom later ran the BMP and were subsequently indicted. 

Martins was the advisor and provided the funds from the government budget, and De Sousa did the work together with Jose Afat and SgtMaj Carlos Amaral. The militia was supported from its formation by military intelligence SGI and the local military district commander (see LtCol Asep Kuswani). Its purpose was to respond to the increasingly vigorous push for independence by the CNRT, also in Liquica. Maubara was BMP's main base. This was the first of many new militias formed around the territory. 'The BMP succeeded in seizing Liquica back from CNRT control', Martins said proudly, revealing the warlike way in which he viewed the ballot. 'Thousands of CNRT members fled to the forest, where they plotted their chance to seize Liquica back.'

Orders for BMP raids on surrounding villages were often given jointly by Leonito Martins and Manuel de Sousa, for example in May 1999.[2] Despite promises to disband the BMP, given after thousands of East Timorese demonstrated in front of his house in March 1999 following militia threats against a priest, Martins did nothing to control militia violence in Liquica.[3]

He also refused to listen to appeals from priests to stop the militia violence that culminated in the massacre in the Liquica church on 6 April 1999. Indeed the Dili indictment says that Leonito Martins and Manuel de Sousa together gave the order to the militias to attack the refugees at the church compound on the morning of 6 April (clause 108). Martins told survivors of the massacre who fled to his house that what happened was the consequence of not supporting autonomy (clause 117). Despite his direct responsibility for an enormous loss of life, no action was taken against Leonito Martins by his superior, governor Abilio Soares.[4]

  • Jose Afat, as sub-district head (camat) of Maubara one of Martins' subordinates, was directly implicated in the 6 April massacre.[5] He was listed for prosecution in the same 22 November 2001 indictment as Leonito Martins. This man was also responsible for deaths and injuries when on 23 February 1999 he personally shot into a crowd of hundreds of villagers who had accepted an invitation to come to a meeting at Guiso (Guico) village.[6]


Leonito Martins also supported another militia group, called Pana and based in his home village of Vatuboro. This group, led by Felipe Graciano (Graciano Filipe), had connections with an earlier militia known as Gadapaksi, established in 1995 by Prabowo. Graciano was listed in the same 22 November 2001 Dili indictment as Leonito Martins. Like BMP, this group also launched many attacks on villages, assisted by both territorial soldiers and members of Battalion 143 (see LtCol Saripudin), and helped cause the refugee crisis in Liquica.[7]

On 12 June 1999 Leonito Martins attended a meeting of military and militia leaders at which plans were discussed to forcibly evacuate women and children to West Timor.[8]

According to the Dili indictment (clauses 173-174) he promised his colleagues in government before the referendum to organise tranport to deport the population should Indonesia lose. Before himself leaving for Atambua after the referendum, he left instructions to destroy everything that belonged to Indonesia.

In September 2000 he gave no explanation for failing to appear for questioning at the Attorney General's Department in relation to his involvement in the East Timor violence of 1999. He was acuitted by a panel of judges at the Ad Hoc Human Rights Court in Indonesia on 29 November 2002. The chief judge ruled that neither Martins nor his co-defendants LtCol Asep Kuswani and LtCol (Pol) Adios Salova had any connection with the BMP militia that carried out the Liquica church atrocity.[9]

Extra Information

Implicated in Events:
Liquica - 6/04/1999 - Liquica church massacre

Current Status:
T - Committed for trial in East Timor, some already sentenced.

A - (Indonesian) Attorney General's Department. Announced as suspects at various times (September 2000 - April 2001), some later dropped, some already sentenced.

K - KPP HAM. Listed in the 31/01/2000 report of the Indonesian commission of inquiry into atrocities committed in East Timor in 1999. More junior figures in Appendix 5 of the final report are added here under their superiors.

See map of location

This individual is also mentioned in these profiles:
Manuel de Sousa
Eurico Guterres
LtCol Asep Kuswani
LtCol Saripudin
Abilio Soares
LtGen Sugiono

[1] The Dili case is Case 21/ 2001, Serious Crimes trial documents ( The 34-page indictment is the most detailed to date in Dili. Non-military individuals indicted are (spellings as listed, with affiliation if known from other sources): Leoneto Martins, Augustinho Alves Correia (Dato Liquica sub-district head), Jose Afat (Maubara sub-district head - see below), Manuel Sosa (Manuel de Sousa, BMP commander for Liquica district), Joao Sera (BMP vice-commander for Liquica district), Zacharia Alves (BMP commander for Bazartete and Liquica), Floriano da Silva (BMP commander in Gugleur), Jacinto Goncalves (BMP commander in Bazartete), Victor Lopez (BMP commander in Bazartete), Domingos Goncalves (BMP commander in Bazartete), Victor da Cruz (BMP member Bazartete). Military figures in the same indictment are given under LtCol Asep Kuswani. District police chief LtCol (Pol) Adios Salova was also indicted.

Some of these non-military individuals recur, along other ones, in Appendix 5 of the KPP HAM report (as given): Victor [Ediri?], Domingos Mendes, Venancio, Boaventura dos Santos, Manuel Marques, Agusto Freitas Martins, Afonso de Jesus, Zacarias Correia, Isak, Tomi, and Jacob. Military figures listed in the KPP HAM Appendix are given under LtCol Asep Kuswani.

The Indonesian court documents are available on the JSMP website at

[2] 'Urgent Action 5/99: Disappearances in Bazartete', East Timor Human Rights Centre (ETHRC), 20 May 1999.

[3] 'Muspida Liqiusa, Gereja dan CNRT sepakat bubarkan BMP', Suara Timor Timur, 16 Maret 1999; 'Liquica rusuh', Kompas, 14 March 1999; 'Isu pastor kena panah bergolak', Waspada, 15 March 1999.

[4] 'Pratiwi: Catatan perjalanan di Bumi Loro Sa'e (11)', MateBEAN, 13 October 1999; 'Dua kelompok bersitegang di Timtim', Kompas, 7 July 1999.

[5] Bishop Belo said Governor Abilio Soares had promised to dismiss Afat over the Liquica massacre. However, he failed to fulfil his promise ('Uskup Belo Danrem Tono dan Kapolda Timtim Silaen tinjau situasi Liquica', Suara Timor Timur, 8 April 1999). The same man earlier wounded four civilians (whose identities are known) in an incident at Guiso village on 23 February 1999 ('Teror, kekerasan dan intimidasi Abri dan milisi pro-integrasi di Timor Timur: Laporan situasi hak azasi manusia di Timor Timur periode Januari - Maret 1999', Yayasan HAK, MateBEAN, 19 April 1999; 'TL up-date: Teror milisi pro-otonomi di sektor Barat', Fortilos, 28 February 1999). In late April/ early May he was implicated in the disappearance of about twenty young men held at the local military headquarters (Koramil) ('Milisi bersenjata kembali unjuk kekuatan', MateBEAN, 18 May 1999).

[6] Yayasan HAK, 'Report on human rights abuses, January - February 1999', 12 April 1999. A mistaken report that Leonito Martins himself had done the firing ('Pasukan pembunuh Indonesia (2)', Solidamor, 25 May 1999) may have led KPP HAM to mention this incident when it listed Leonito Martins in Appendix 5 of its final report.

[7] John Roosa, 'Info on Abri's paramiliaries in East Timor',, 12 February 1999.

[8] 'Indonesia/ East Timor: Forced expulsions to West Timor and the refugee crisis', NY: Human Rights Watch (HRW), Vol. 11, No. 7 (c) (, December 1999.

[9] 'Noer Muis: Saya hanya menjalankan instruksi dari atas', Kompas,  12 September 2000; Jane Perlez, ‘Indonesian human rights court acquits 4 in East Timor killings’, The New York Times, 1 December 2002; Don Greenlees, ‘No justice after East Timor slaying’, The Australian, 2 December 2002.


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