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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 May 2007, 11:16 GMT 12:16 UK
Australia inquiry angers Jakarta
Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso at news conference in Jakarta after leaving Australia - 30/05/2007
Governor Sutiyoso has demanded an apology from Australia
Tensions between Indonesia and Australia are running high over a Sydney inquest into the deaths of five reporters killed in East Timor in 1975.

The Australian inquiry has been told that Indonesian troops murdered five Australian-based journalists during the invasion of East Timor.

Jakarta's governor cut short a visit to Australia after being asked to answer questions at the coroner's inquest.

Australia and Indonesia have always said the journalists died accidentally.

Two previous official Australian investigations have concluded the five journalists were accidentally shot when they were caught in crossfire as Indonesian troops entered Balibo, in East Timor, in October 1975.

'War crime'

But a senior lawyer told coroner Dorelle Pinch that eyewitness evidence has proved the men were murdered after they had tried to surrender to Indonesian soldiers.

"The journalists were not killed by being caught in crossfire," Mark Tedeschi said, "but rather were deliberately killed by the Indonesian troops who had arrived at the Balibo town square."

"At least three of the journalists were shot by Indonesian troops after an order was given by Captain Yunus Yosfiah," he said as he delivered his summary of the evidence presented at the inquest over the last four months.

Map
Another journalist was shot separately and the fifth was stabbed to death by another Indonesian officer, Mr Tedeschi said.

He said such behaviour must have been sanctioned by officers higher in rank to those present at Balibo and could constitute a war crime under the Geneva Convention.

Britons Brian Peters and Malcolm Rennie, Australians Greg Shackleton and Tony Stewart and New Zealander Gary Cunningham died in Balibo while working for Australian television channels.

Their families have always maintained they were murdered by Indonesian special forces to cover up their attack on Balibo.

Jakarta's current Governor Sutiyoso cut short an official visit to Sydney after being asked to testify at the inquest by Australian police officers who allegedly entered his hotel room.

"They barged into my room after forcing the hotel to give them a duplicate key," he told reporters after returning to Jakarta.

Mutual accusations

Sutiyoso, a former general, said he served in East Timor in 1975 but was never stationed in Balibo.

He has demanded an official apology from the Australian government over the matter.

Protesters outside Australia's embassy in Jakarta
The row prompted protests outside Australia's embassy in Jakarta
"I feel really insulted," he said.

"I was angry because I was not supposed to be treated like that as a state official who came on an official invitation."

A police officer was sent with a personal invitation to the governor to appear at the inquest, coroner Pinch said.

She said she had spoken to the police officer who assured her no unauthorised entry was made to Governor Sutiyoso's room.

Indonesia's foreign ministry has asked Australia's ambassador to Jakarta to explain why Gov Sutiyoso was asked to testify.

Visiting foreign officials are protected under Australian law from court orders relating to domestic matters.

The row has prompted a spate of accusations between the two governments, the BBC's Lucy Williamson in Jakarta says.

Indonesia's Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda said Canberra had told him there would be no fall-out from the inquest, Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

Speaking to ABC, Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer denied giving any such assurance.


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