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Gusmao 'responsible' for bomb-making plan

Sydney Morning Herald - November 20, 1997

Louise Williams, Jakarta – The imprisoned East Timorese independence leader, Xanana Gusmao, has been reported as taking "full responsibility" for a planned bombing campaign in the provincial capital of Dili, but has denied terrorism charges.

Gusmao was taken from his cell for questioning on Tuesday as President Soeharto left for a trip to southern Africa, Canada and Saudi Arabia.

Mr Soeharto is due to arrive in South Africa today, where he will meet President Nelson Mandela, who is expected to repeat his appeal for Gusmao's release as part of an overall settlement for East Timor.

In Jakarta, one of the Gusmao's lawyers, Mr Hendardi, was quoted as saying that Gusmao had told police: "Accusations of terrorism were not true at all, we never intended to use the bombs for civilian targets.

"The bombs were made to strengthen our resistance towards the [Indonesian] armed forces and I will take full responsibility for their activities," Gusmao is quoted as saying in the Jakarta Post.

Mr Mandela asked Mr Soeharto's permission to meet Gusmao, the former commander of the Fretilin guerilla forces, during his visit to Indonesia in July.

Police are investigating a home-made bomb factory in East Java where a bomb was accidentally detonated on September 13, alerting the authorities and leading to the arrest of seven youths.

Twenty bombs were intercepted on their way to East Timor and police claim a husband-and-wife team, now taking refuge in the Austrian Embassy, are wanted in connection with the planned bombing campaign.

The Government has ordered the embassy to hand over the couple to face terrorism charges.

The armed forces claim an Australian national travelled to Indonesia to teach the rebels bomb-making. They refuse to reveal the Australian's name, but have sought assistance from the Australian Government.

Foreign journalists have been barred from travelling to the former Portuguese territory since May, when hostilities escalated and the Fretilin forces launched several direct attacks on Dili.