Subject: RT: Timor deports last illegal Muslims to Indonesia

Timor deports last illegal Muslims to Indonesia December 2, 2004


Tiny East Timor deported 184 Muslims to neighbouring Indonesia yesterday, largely completing the mass return of some 250 people detained for living illegally near the capital's only mosque.

East Timor began deporting the Muslims, who originated from Indonesia but considered themselves East Timorese, earlier this week. The Muslims had lived in East Timor before it split from Indonesia during a bloody independence ballot five years ago.

The issue has struck a sensitive cord in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, where some local media have described the deportations as a move by predominantly Catholic East Timor against Islam.

Jakarta does not consider the Muslims Indonesian nationals.

East Timor, which has a Muslim prime minister and has sought to build good ties with Indonesia, argues the issue has nothing to do with religion, claiming the evicted Muslims built houses and schools adjacent to the An-Nur mosque, but none had proper East Timorese permits. AdvertisementAdvertisement

"Today, we sent home 184 people. Apart from the ones who were sick, we have sent them all home," said Carlos Geronimo, head of the East Timor immigration office, referring to the Muslims who were evicted from shelters around the mosque in Dili.

The Muslims were being bused to Indonesian West Timor.

A small number who were either sick or had to care for ill relatives were allowed to stay temporarily in Dili.

East Timor became formally independent in May 2002 after centuries of Portuguese colonial rule, 24 years of occupation by Indonesia and more than two years of UN administration.

An overwhelming vote by Timorese in August 1999 to break free from Jakarta triggered a rampage by gangs supported by elements in the Indonesian army. The UN estimates around 1000 people were killed in violence surrounding the vote.

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