The former leader of a pro-Jakarta civilian militia in East Timor has rejected claims he still has links to Indonesia's military as he seeks election to 'serve the people'. Eurico Guterres, a Catholic living in Kupang, the capital of East Nusa Tenggara, the province that includes West Timor, is vying for a seat in the national parliament under the banner of the National Mandate Party (PAN), a moderate Muslim party. He was head of the Aitarak militia during East Timor's vote for independence in 1999. On April 17 that year, he went on national television to incite thousands of militiamen to kill pro-independence supporters. He then led an attack on the house of former governor Manuel Carrascalao, during which 12 people were killed. He was a key player in the Liquica massacre, during which up to 200 East Timorese were murdered at the Catholic church. 'I want to fight for the aspirations of people in East Nusa Tenggara. This province is one of the poorest and least successful in the country, and I want to help change that,' he said of his bid for politics. 'Improving education and health care are my priorities.' He said he had accepted PAN's request to join it because it was a 'nationalistic party'. He claimed that he had funded his campaign by taking a loan against his house. He acknowledged the difficulties of changing people's opinions of his chequered past as he attempts to move into the political arena. 'Members of other parties have tried to spread rumours about me.' Throughout 1999, he engaged in numerous acts of violence, all while staying in contact with top Indonesian military officials. He was close to the former chief of the army's notorious Kopassus special-forces unit, Prabowo Subianto, who was accused of running 'terror squads' in East Timor and is now a presidential hopeful leading the Gerindra party. Jakarta eventually put Mr Guterres on trial. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for crimes against humanity but spent only two years behind bars after the Supreme Court cleared him of his charges last year. That acquittal meant no military, police or militia member has been brought to justice over the 1999 violence in East Timor. More than 1,400 people died and much of the country's infrastructure was destroyed. Mr Guterres claims he never killed, nor incited anyone to commit murder. Regarding his political standing, observers believe he may be supported by local Indonesian army commanders, eager to exploit the porous borders with East Timor, rife with smuggling. They also say Mr Guterres still enjoys wide support in the villages at the border area, where thousands of refugees from the 1999 conflict still live. Such support could ultimately hand him his ticket to parliament.