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Timorese in Austrian embassy called terrorists

Reuter - October 12, 1997

Jakarta – An Indonesian military official has accused two East Timorese sheltering in the Austrian embassy in Jakarta of being terrorists.

Indonesia's military commander in East Timor, Colonel Slamat Sidabutar, was quoted by the official Antara news agency on Sunday as saying two of six Timorese at the diplomatic mission seeking political asylum in Portugal were terrorists.

The two were identified only as AF and S.

"As the masterminds behind the making of assembled bombs in Demak in Central Java and along with the 20 which were smuggled to Dili is proof that they are terrorists which must be condemned by the whole world," Sidabutar said in Dili on Saturday.

Last month up to 13 East Timorese men were reportedly arrested in Dili and around the Central Java capital Semarang, after authorities discovered some of them carrying 20 bombs and ammunition after they arrived in Dili by ferry.

Reports at the time said an explosion in a house rented by a number of East Timorese in Demak led to the arrests.

The six asylum seekers entered the embassy three weeks ago. Indonesian authorities in an unusual move have refused to take the well-established steps to process their asylum request.

More than 100 East Timorese have entered foreign missions in Jakarta in the past two years in asylum bids. They generally had their requests to leave for Portugal dealt with in days, facilitated by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Portugal is the former colonial power in East Timor and is the main destination because it routinely grants Portuguese nationality to any East Timorese applying for it. Lisbon is still recognised by the United Nations as the territory's administrator.

However, attempts to allow the latest group to leave have reached a stalemate, as Indonesian authorities are keen to detain two of them. The group includes a couple with two children.

The Austrian embassy said on Sunday the six were still in the embassy compound with no immediate plans to leave.

Sidabutar said the asylum seekers felt unsafe as a result of their terrorist activities.

"After the bomb they assembled in Demak exploded they felt their plans were already known by the security forces, so the two asked for political asylum in another country," he said.

"You can imagine that if the 20 bombs slipped through and were used by certain irresponsible parties, then hundreds of innocent East Timorese would have become victims."

Evidence was being gathered to convince the Austrian embassy of the asylum seekers' involvement in the bomb plot, he added.

Indonesia still faces a small band of guerrillas opposing its rule in East Timor almost 22 years after its December 1975 invasion. It annexed the territory the following year in an act not recognised by the United Nations.

Diplomats who watch East Timor closely say bomb-making is a new development in the low-level conflict, which mostly involves ambushes and small scale attacks on the Indonesian military in the rugged interior.