Jakarta – An East Timorese man has been jailed for one year for spreading hatred against Indonesian President Suharto after displaying a banner in the territory last year, the Antara news agency reported on Monday.
The agency said the state court in the East Timor capital Dili on Monday sentenced Joao Do Rosario Pires Al Joao, 24, under a lighter section of the criminal code because he told the court he did not know the poster was spreading hatred.
The report said the more serious charge of intentionally spreading hatred against the president, which carries a maximum sentence of six years jail, was not proved.
Antara said the banner showed a picture of Suharto beside jailed East Timorese resistance leader Xanana Gusmao. The report did not mention that the image of Suharto showed the president with a bloody bone in his mouth and holding two human skulls.
The banner, captioned "Suharto eats the bones of East Timorese," was placed outside the offices of Nobel peace laureate Bishop Carlos Belo in a demonstration in support of the head of the Dili diocese while he was giving a news conference.
Antara quoted Joao as saying he did not know the meaning of the banner, which was partly written in English.
"I did not know that if a picture of the President was put beside Xanana it was categorised as spreading hatred against the president," Joao was quoted by Antara as saying.
"I now truly regret it because I have done things which I did not know and (which) have caused me to suffer," he said.
A small band of armed rebels, which the Indonesian army says number less than 100, and an urban-based clandestine movement still oppose Jakarta's rule in the territory which remains heavily garrisoned by Indonesian troops.
Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony of East Timor in 1975 and annexed it the following year in an act not recognised by the United Nations.