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Indonesia agrees probe into death of East Timor fighter

Agence France Presse - July 4, 1997

Lisbon – UN and Indonesian officials are to set up an inquiry into the death of the deputy leader of East Timorese rebels fighting Indonesian troops in the former Portuguese colony, Nobel Peace prize winner Jose Ramos-Horta announced Friday.

The inquiry will begin "in the next few days" and will be headed by an independent figure, yet to be designated, probably from the United Nations or another international body such as the Red Cross, Ramos-Horta said, as quoted by the Portuguese news agency Lusa.

David Alex, 48, of the Fretilin movement fighting Indonesian occupation of East Timor, died in unclear circumstances after being captured by Indonesian troops on June 25.

The Indonesian army said Alex was captured at Kaibada, near Bacau, 115 kilometres (70 miles) east of the capital Dili, in a grotto where he was hiding with five other people. It said he died in a military hospital at Dili after being flown there by helicopter. Another version of the story said he had died during the helicopter flight.

However rebel sources said Alex had died under interrogration.

The rebel leader was buried without having been identified by his family which has demanded that the body be exhumed for a verification to be made.

Ramos-Horta, himself a leading spokesman for East Timorean independence, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996, jointly with the territory's Roman Catholic Bishop Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo.

On Thursday 10 young East Timorese began a week-long hunger-strike outside the UN office in Lisbon to demand an independent inquiry into Alex's death. Other East Timorese handed in a petition to the US embassy in Lison demanding Washington's support for an independent probe.

The human rights body Amnesty International has said it has asked Jakarta to authorise an independent inquiry.

A Portuguese colony, East Timor was invaded by Indonesia in December 1975 and annexed the following year. The United Nations still considers Portugal the administrative power.