Darwin political activist bashed
By Deb Sorensen
DARWIN — A well-known political activist and Green Left Weekly distributor, Shell 63, has been bashed over the head with a long-handled police torch. The wound required seven stitches. The incident occurred at about 12.30 a.m. on Friday morning, January 28.
"I was walking down Cavanagh Street", Shell said, "when a marked police car drive by and the cops waved. I didn't recognise them, so I didn't wave back.
"The car did a U-turn and stopped. There were two male uniformed police inside. One of them got out holding this big black torch. He said, 'We want to talk to you', as he was coming towards me brandishing his torch ... He said, 'I'm not going to hit you', but he kept coming at me so I turned and ran.
"I tripped as I was running down Knuckey Street ... The cop also tripped and went sprawling over the road in front of me. I thought 'Oh no, now I've had it', because I knew he'd be really angry at falling over.
"Then he caught up with me and that's when he hit me over the head with the torch. He got me in a choke hold on the ground ... He was really angry. He said put your hands behind your back. I did whatever he said. He had his boot on my head."
Shell has been a long-term supporter and activist for East Timorese independence. He often wears pro-East Timor T-shirts, and on the night he was bashed he had a T-shirt with the words "Xanana" and "East Timor".
The cop who bashed Shell accused him of having put up pro-East Timorese posters around the town that night. Shell says he hadn't been putting the posters up. According to Shell, as he was holding him to the ground the cop said, "Come on, come clean. You say you weren't putting the posters up but you've even got the T-shirt on."
Despite no charges having been made and with blood gushing from his head, Shell was taken to the city police station and told to wait in a small room for the senior police officer in charge of the night shift to arrive from the outlying Berrimah station.
Shell says, "All this blood was gushing out of my head and they were really worried." When the senior officer arrived, Shell says that he said, "We're sorry about this; it's a regrettable incident".
According to shell, this is not the first time he has been harassed for no apparent reason. In the middle of last year, he was put in a paddy wagon and accused of defacing the Indonesian consulate — even though the building was unmarked.
Shell also tells of other pro-East Timor activists who have been treated in a less than friendly way by police.
Territory Chief Minister Marshall Perron and the Country Liberal Party government are seeking closer ties with Indonesia. They have long been hostile to demands for East Timorese independence and oppose sanctions against Indonesia for its human rights violations.