East Timorese face trial

June 22, 1994

East Timorese face trial

By Jon Land

Five East Timorese independence activists are about to go on trial for peaceful protests they carried out during the visit of foreign journalists to Dili in April. They face up to seven years' imprisonment under Indonesian law.

Grave concerns are held for their well-being, as well as of six other prisoners who were hurriedly moved from the Comarca Prison in Dili to one in Semarang in East Java. It is believed the six are suffering ill-treatment and torture for staging a demonstration and shouting independence slogans during the "guided" tour of foreign journalists to their prison.

All six were arrested for taking part in the peaceful demonstration in Dili on November 12, 1991, which was attacked by the Indonesian military, who killed some 270 civilians.

Indonesian authorities are extremely sensitive about East Timor following the bungled attempts to block the Asia Pacific Conference on East Timor in Manila earlier this month. An Indonesian parliamentary committee report released on June 14 urged "a fundamental improvement and repair" of the human rights situation in East Timor.

"What this shows is concern amongst sections of the Suharto regime over international attention to the human rights situation on East Timor, which has worsened over the last few years", said Max Lane, spokesperson for AKSI — Indonesia Solidarity Action. "It also reveals the growing influence that the pro-democracy movement and outspoken social commentators such as George Aditjondro have on Indonesian politics."

The UN is sending a special rapporteur on torture and extrajudicial execution to Indonesia and East Timor in early July, to investigate human rights abuses and those still missing following the Dili massacre of 1991.

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