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Balibo Five families want AFP to re-open case on 40th anniversary

WA Today - October 16, 2015

Molly Schmidt – A son of one of the five Australian-based journalists killed in Balibo, East Timor, has asked the Australian Federal Police to re-investigate the case – on the day 40th anniversary commemorations were held to mark their deaths.

John Milkins, son of Channel 7 cameraman Gary Cunningham, who was among the Balibo Five, called on the AFP on Friday to reopen the investigations into the deaths of the young men.

"There are still untold stories," he said. "The issue is, of course, our government doesn't want them to be told. They were deliberately targeted, shot, stabbed, and their bodies were burnt."

The Balibo Five were killed in East Timor during Indonesian incursion in 1975 but had believed, as journalists, that Indonesian soldiers would not target them.

At the time, the Indonesian military is alleged to have been conducting a covert military campaign in the border regions of East Timor. It publicly denied that it was involved in those operations, but it is believed it privately gave details of the campaign to Australian diplomats.

The strategy reportedly depended on the Indonesian military's involvement remaining hidden and if the journalists, who were in the border town of Balibo, had obtained film footage of the operations and conveyed it to the outside world, the covert military operation would have been exposed.

Indonesian troops seized Balibo and killed the journalists soon after. Another Australian journalist, Roger East, was killed six weeks later.

The official Indonesian version of events said the men were shot in cross fire, and the Australian government has not challenged this. In 2007, an Australian coroner ruled Indonesian special force soldiers had intentionally killed the Balibo Five.

Paulie Stewart, the brother of the youngest of the Balibo Five – sound recordist Tony Stewart – said the families were still left with more questions than answers.

"We've waited 40 years for this," Mr Stewart said. "Action is what we want. They actually know who is responsible and nothing has been done since."

Mr Milkins said he believed the AFP had already rejected his request for a re-opening of the case. "I read in a statement by the AFP that they have no further evidence. That's because they're not trying to get any further evidence," he said.

Mr Stewart said it did not surprise him that the request was not successful. "I have no respect at all for the Australian Federal Police and how they've dealt with my family over this issue," he said.

Mr Milkins, who was five years old when his father was killed, was adopted as a baby and didn't know of his connection to the Balibo Five until he met his birth mother when he was 19.

"My birth mum told me my father was one of the Balibo Five and six weeks beforehand I'd just been studying it in a uni course," he said. "It was very hard to go into the library at university and read incredibly graphic newspaper reports about what had happened to them."

The AFP said they "sympathised with the families of the Balibo Five as they commemorated the 40th anniversary of the deaths of their loved ones". But a spokesperson for the AFP said they had not received any new evidence to warrant reopening the investigation.

The five young men, employed by Channels 7 and 9, were Gary Cunningham, Brian Peters, Malcolm Rennie, Greg Shackleton and Anthony Stewart. The commemorations, held in Canberra on Friday morning, were led by Shirley Shackleton, the wife of Channel 7 reporter Greg Shackleton.

Source: http://www.watoday.com.au/national/balibo-five-families-want-afp-to-reopen-case-on-40th-anniversary-20151016-gkb372.html