Xanana stands firm as arrests increase


Xanana stands firm as arrests increase

By Jon Land

Xanana Gusmao, imprisoned leader of the East Timorese resistance, has rejected an offer of release into exile. The special adviser of the Indonesian government on Timorese issues, Francisco Lopez da Cruz, and UN special envoy to East Timor Francesc Vendrell, jointly urged Gusmao to accept exile, reportedly somewhere in Africa.

The Portuguese news agency LUSA reported on May 20 that a letter smuggled out of Cipinang prison from Gusmao stated, "I will not accept the proposal of exile, whether by my former lawyer acting on behalf of [Lopez da Cruz] or Mr Vendrell of the UN.

"I will not accept exile unless all Timorese political prisoners are freed. I will only agree to leave prison to take part in peace negotiations between Portugal and Indonesia."

Gusmao has suffered harassment and sleep deprivation since imprisonment nearly two years ago. He has been denied visits from the International Red Cross. Permission for his wife and family to visit him has repeatedly been refused.

Human rights groups have reported further house searches, interrogations and arrests in East Timor. At least 12 East Timorese students have been arrested in recent weeks.

On May 19, Jose Antonio Neves was arrested following his return from Dili to Malang in Indonesia. Neves is a key leader of CNRM (National Council of the Maubere Resistance). It is believed that when he was detained by Indonesian authorities Neves was carrying a letter from Konis Santana, the leader of the Timorese armed resistance, which was to be read out at the Asia Pacific Conference on East Timor in Manila.

These arrests come less than two weeks after negotiations at the UN at which Indonesia indicated it was prepared to speak with pro-independence Timorese.

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