Twenty-four of those arrested in connection with a demonstration at the Mahkota Hotel in Dili on 23 March 1997 remain in custody and are now facing charges for publicly expressing hatred against the government. The remaining 21 arrested on 23 March appear to have been released.
The fact that the 24 are being held under Indonesia's 'Hate-sowing' Articles, which punish the expression of 'hatred' against the government, confirms Amnesty International's fears that the East Timorese are being tried for the peaceful expression of their beliefs, rather than for any alleged acts of violence during the disturbance.
A police official was quoted by Reuters news agency as stating that '[t]he banners they displayed show hatred against the government'. It is not known whether the 24 have been given access to independent legal counsel.
It is not known if the three and possibly seven others arrested on 24 March are still being held.