Letter from an East Timorese prisoner

Issue 

The following letter from a prisoner in East Timor, arrested after the Dili massacre in November 1991, was dated June 23 and recently received in Australia.

Only today I'm able to answer your letter sent through H. For I was very busy. As you know the Santa Cruz tragedy brought me here along with a few comrades. We are here for about 7 months. After the 3 first months of intensive questioning, together or one by one, the enemy found that we met all the necessary requirements to be the scape goats, as planned to influence the public opinion.

We knew from the beginning that the IN [Indonesian army] was trying to frame us up with a clear intention. Our indictment have portrayed the enemy objectives.

The reality was quite different. It was a spontaneous reaction after the events at the Motael church on 28-10-91. There were no groups or person behind.

The IN's fabricated version is that the demonstrators were under the leadership of a group and that they were armed. The army reacted only in self-defense.

The truth is:

One of our comrades (Gregorio da Cunha Saldanha) who took part on the demonstration, on his own accord, was shot and later taken to hospital. Military people only managed to recognize him after the critical situation had calmed down and the only reason he is still alive — Indonesia Intelligence, INTEL, wanted him. He was the ideal person to be charged as the demonstrators' leader. They also knew of his participation in previous demonstrations. To nail him they got old "Mausers" rifles, grenades and pistols which were captured long time ago and claimed that demonstrators had carried them.

According to the demonstrators a group of Indonesians agents, INTEL, took part in the protest march to cause problems. When they left Motael church everything was under control. However, when they reached ACAIT trouble started because an intelligence officer who managed to mix with the crowd, forcefully attempted to steal a flag carried by a woman. A brawl began almost immediately and the officer was injured. From there on the crowd became restless, due to the presence of INTEL people among them. From ACAIT onwards, a group of protesters grab the banner with Xanana's picture on and started running ahead, forcing the people to move faster. It is now confirmed that the group, who grabbed the banner, was working for the INTEL. Before they had reached Santa Cruz many people were already waiting for them. These people had been also provoked by INTEL, who had thrown stones on them while driving back and forth, but they did not respond to the provocation. Soon after the marchers arrived. Some went into the cemetery to lay a wreath of flowers and pray, others remained outside the gate chanting. Those who ed up the brick fence and unfolded them.

The riot police arrived minutes later to quiet the crowd down followed by a platoon of the battalion 303, well known all over the territory by their crimes against the civilian population. They came from Taibessi, shirtless and all armed with automatic rifles M-16 on fire position. The riot police moved aside allowing the platoon to confront the crowd. Suddenly and without warning they open fire, the first ones to be hit were those standing on the brick fence with flags. Terrified, people start screaming from everywhere, even days later people couldn't get over it. According to eye witnesses young girls who pleaded not to be shot were killed in cold blood. Many young men died or were injured, only because they protected their fellow women compatriots with their bodies from the rain of bullets. It was a tragedy, months after the survivors still have terrified visions of the shooting. It even happened in our prison cells on December 12, 1991 with the Santa Cruz survivors.

According to eye witnesses accounts our injured and moribund women compatriots who were taken to hospital in army trucks, were sexually assaulted by soldiers, who touched their breasts and genitals. Also according to eye witnesses the soldiers had sexually assaulted dying women left in the mortuary.

IN put in place a scheme to blame us. They said that our group had organised the demonstration following CNRM [National Council of Maubere Resistance] orders that supplied the guns. To achieve their plans they forced us to accept the comedy of a dummy trial. They attempted to force us to accept a solicitor, a lawyer who is an INTEL informer. From the beginning we ask for an open trial to give us the opportunity to bring the truth out. For this reason we contacted some friends in Dili who brought from Jakarta lawyers with wide experience and unbiased. The lawyers are from two large and well known organizations. Many obstacles were raised to stop them coming. Finally the road was clear for the trial we wanted. The hearings started on 12/3/1992. Soon you will be able to read and listen to our statements in the courtroom — through documents and cassettes.

Brief items of our statements:

We proved that the people spirits were impregnated with nationalist feelings. Historic facts are undeniable evidence. The illegality of the integration process based on the Balibo Declaration. Portugal is still recognized by the United Nations as the Administering Power. We denounced as meaningless the development perpetrated by Indonesia in East Timor in the last 16 years, because it is unacceptable to exchange the people's soul for a mere development. You can read in detail when the documents get there. We were threatened several times not to accept the Jakarta lawyers. We were told that we could cause more damage to ourselves. But we rather accept the risks and sacrifice ourselves to help advance our diplomatic campaign abroad.

In this moment we have already reached the final phase of our trial.

According to the court there are two choices for us:

1 — Accept the sentence and then plead the President for pardoning;

2 — Not accept the sentence and appeal to the high court.

Before these two choices, we conclude that the first would help them in their diplomatic campaign abroad on the Santa Cruz issue, that would offer us the chance to be easily released. On the other hand, the second choice would make being released difficult and possibly we would get heavier sentences. Even so, we want to take the risk. Perhaps our sacrifice, together with our brothers that death have taken, may help the process to move a step forward.

Contacts with our grandfather is still going on and with the outside family as well.

Although they have a platoon of crack troops stationed in each neighbourhood, everything goes on as usual. On the election day the youth wanted to boycott it but grandfather told them not to. When Alatas was in Dili, in a meeting with the youth, he was openly criticized.

At the beginning of our trial we feared they would attempt to get rid of us, but everything is running well till this moment, thanks to the world solidarity. We are grateful for that show of solidarity specially from our comrades and friends who are working tiredness for the East Timor cause, particularly for the political prisoners.

Dear friend this is the short history of our trial and an up to date of the present situation. Let's now get to our individual situation:

Three prisoners of the Santa Cruz tragedy have got already their final sentence, as follows:

Francisco Miranda Branco — 15 years

Juvencio de Jesus Martins — 6 years and 10 months

Filomeno da Silva Ferreira — 5 years and 8 months

Waiting to be sentenced:

Jacinto das N.R. Alves [since sentenced to 10 years]

Gregorio da Cunha Saldanha [since sentenced to life imprisonment]

Carlos dos Santos Lemos

Bonifacio Magno Pereira

For your own knowledge there are another 5 young people on trial, related to the Motael event: Aleixo da Silva, Joao dos Santos, Bonifacio Barreto, Bobby Xavier, Jacob da Silva

I take this opportunity to ask for your solidarity regarding our on, we are all government workers and we have been suspended since February. This is my special appeal.

I also remind you that one of our comrades is in Baucau Jail, his name is Saturnino da Costa Belo, under the same charge as us. This is all for now, and it is all I can say. I hope you will receive this letter. My affectionate greetings to all and especially for you.

In spite of being in these cells we are determined and in solidarity with you all.
[The Alice Springs Friends of East Timor have set up a fund to aid the families of those killed or imprisoned. Donations can be sent to the Alice Springs Friends of East Timor, c/- 43 Giles Street, Alice Springs 0870, or deposited directly into their account at the Commonwealth Bank (branch 5900, account 10009781). For further information phone (a/h) (089) 52 8804 Deborah, 52 5908 David.]

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