Subject: SMH/Age: UK to release Balibo Five papers

Sydney Morning Herald July 19 2002

UK to release Balibo Five papers

By Jill Jolliffe, Herald Correspondent in Dili

The British Government has told families of the two British journalists killed in Balibo, East Timor, in 1975 that it will soon release classified documents concerning the deaths.

Margaret Wilson, a cousin of Malcolm Rennie, one of the slain reporters, said she was surprised at the news. "We were always told there was nothing to release," she said.

In 1996 the British Foreign Office told Ms Wilson that documents concerning Rennie's death had been destroyed.

The move follows pressure on the British Government from Ms Wilson and Maureen Tolfree, the sister of Brian Peters, the other British journalist.

Rennie and Peters were part of a group of television reporters, now known as the Balibo Five, who were killed when Indonesian special forces attacked the border town on October16, 1975. The others were Greg Shackleton and Tony Stewart, both Australians, and Gary Cunningham, a New Zealander.

Several East Timorese witnesses have identified General Yunus Yosfiah, a former Indonesian minister for information, as the man who led the attack and who personally fired on the five reporters.

The British families are also demanding that their Government take action to shore up an investigation by United Nations prosecutors in East Timor that began in 2000 but which has virtually collapsed because of Indonesian obstruction.

Mike O'Brien, Britain's Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, wrote to the families on June 24 "to confirm officially that the Foreign Office is reviewing the 1975-1976 files referring to the Balibo case in order to release the documents ahead of their projected release date in 2006-07".

He said the review had already begun and was expected to take two months, "but that some documents will need to be referred to the Australian Government".

The Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, authorised a similar early release of Balibo documents in September 2000. They confirmed suspicions that Gough Whitlam's Labor government had been compromised in 1975 by its advance knowledge of the Indonesian government's plans to attack Balibo.

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