Ten former militia gang members have been sentenced to prison terms for their part in one of the worst massacres linked to East Timor's vote for independence in 1999. Seven were convicted for the murders of nine people, including a Catholic priest, two nuns, two church workers and an Indonesian journalist, near the town of Los Palos on September 25, 1999. Three others were found guilty of torture and forced deportations. The leader of the gang, Joni Marques, was found guilty on five counts and will serve the maximum 33-year prison term. Although former militiamen have been convicted in the past on single counts of murder, torture and rape, these verdicts are the first for crimes against humanity - meaning they were part of an orchestrated, long-term terror campaign. The trial was held by the Special Panel for Serious Crimes, set up by East Timor's UN administration. Hundreds were murdered and more than 80% of East Timor's infrastructure was destroyed by the militias and their Indonesian military backers. The violence finally ended with the arrival of UN peacekeepers. The world body is administering East Timor until it gains full independence next year.
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