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Suharto blocks East Timorese asylum seekers

Green Left Weekly - November 26, 1997

Jon Land – The Indonesian government is refusing to allow six East Timorese sheltering for more than three months in the Austrian embassy in Jakarta to leave for Portugal. Indonesian authorities allege that two of the East Timorese have been involved in the manufacture of homemade bombs and are members of a "terrorist group".

Foreign minister Ali Alatas and Suharto's daughter Tutut have urged Austria to hand over the two for questioning. It is claimed that they are linked with 13 East Timorese arrested on September 13 and 15, following the discovery of homemade bombs in Semarang and Dili.

The six, including a family of four, sought refuge in the embassy on September 19, fearing detention and torture by the Indonesian military.

Army spokesperson Brigadier General Abdul Wahab Mokodongan claimed on October 22 that Avelino Maria Coelho da Silva and Nuno Vincente Pereira were part of a special terrorist unit called the Brigada Negra which had carried out "terrorism, sabotage and murder in Indonesian regions, aimed at creating instability in the country".

General Wahab also claimed that Nobel Peace Prize recipient Jose Ramos Horta had close links with the group.

Horta rejected the claims, stating, "These asylum seekers are not terrorists". He added, "Jakarta cannot document any murder of Indonesian civilians by the East Timorese resistance in the 22 years of the Indonesian occupation".

Imprisoned resistance leader Xanana Gusmao was quoted by the November 19 Jakarta Post as saying: "The bombs were made to strengthen our resistance towards the [Indonesian] armed forces and I will take full responsibility for their activities".

Meanwhile, there are grave concerns for eight seriously wounded students who have been detained at the military hospital in Dili following skirmishes at the University of East Timor on November 14.

Indonesian troops fired on hundreds of students protesting against security personnel on campus. Red Cross workers were prevented from assisting the wounded (one student who was shot in the neck was dragged from a Red Cross vehicle by the military and taken away).

Bishop Belo condemned the attack as "incredible brutality". The university was closed on November 17.