APSN Banner

Jailed protesters may have been beaten, Belo says

Sydney Morning Herald - April 5, 1997

Paul Mcgeough and agencies – Dozens of young East Timorese detained since the military broke up a peaceful demonstration in Dili two weeks ago are still in prison, some showing clear signs of being beaten by their captors, the Most Rev Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo says.

After visiting the Dili prison where the protesters were held yesterday morning, the outspoken bishop, a co-winner of last year's Nobel Peace Prize, said that all but six of the prisoners had been removed to the provincial police headquarters - apparently for further interrogation.

"So I wasn't able to see them," Bishop Belo said.

"But the faces of some that I did see were injured as if they had been beaten."

Trouble erupted at the Mahkota Hotel, on Dili's waterfront, on March 23 when about 50 young protesters entered the hotel, seeking to give a message to Mr Jamsheed Marker, the personal envoy in East Timor of the United Nations Secretary General, Mr Kofi Annan.

Independence activists accused the Indonesian military of firing live rounds and using bayonets on the protesters. Police said the demonstrators had injured themselves breaking hotel windows.

Forty-eight people were arrested following the protest, police said. Later they said only 24 remained in custody.

Church sources expressed concern over the fate of two women who were arrested and were later seen apparently beaten and with their clothes dishevelled.

Mr Marker, who was on a three-day visit to East Timor, did not meet the protesters but when he returned to Jakarta last week 33 East Timorese broke into the Austrian Embassy demanding to meet him.

Three were allowed to do so, giving him a petition calling for the release of all East Timorese political prisoners as well as "the participation of real representatives of the Timorese people" in tripartite talks on the fate of East Timor between Indonesia, the UN and Portugal.

In Washington on Thursday President Bill Clinton reiterated US concerns over human rights abuses in East Timor in talks with Portugal's Prime Minister, Mr Antonio Guterres.