Subject: Newsman shot after surrendering: Balibo witness
Newsman shot after surrendering: Balibo witness
February 7, 2007
FORMER Indonesian information minister Yunus Yosfiah gunned down Channel Nine cameraman Brian Peters as he tried to surrender in East Timor in 1975, a witness told an inquest yesterday.
The shots, allegedly fired by Mr Yosfiah, then a special forces officer, from his AK-47 rifle at a range of three metres, were followed by a fusillade from other troops, killing three other Australian newsmen.
The Timorese witness, codenamed Glebe 2, told the NSW Coroners Court that he recognised Peters from photographs as the journalist who stood ahead of the other three in front of a Chinese shop and house, raising his hands in surrender.
Glebe 2 said he could not hear what Peters was saying but he believed the cameraman was "asking for mercy".
Mr Yosfiah, whom the witness could see in profile from 50 metres away, did not try to talk with the journalists. He fired first, with Peters first to fall.
"I believe Yunus killed Brian Peters," Glebe 2 said.
Speaking to The Age from his home in Indonesia this week, Mr Yosfiah denied ordering the killings and said he had never seen the five Australians.
"I never met them, I never saw them," he said in Jakarta. "How can I give an order if I never saw them?"
He said he would not appear before the inquest as the deaths had been investigated.
Peters, along with Nine colleague Malcolm Rennie and the Seven network crew of Greg Shackleton, Gary Cunningham and Tony Stewart, died during the Indonesian attack on the village held by the Fretilin independence movement.
The witness became a frontman for the Indonesian cover story that the attack was made by Timorese partisans opposed to Fretilin and supporting the then Portuguese colony's integration with Indonesia.
He recounted how his name had been put to a bogus statement that the journalists had been inside a house from which Fretilin was firing and that a mortar shell had set it ablaze.
But the Indonesian colonel in charge of the attack, Dading Kalbuardi, had come to inspect the bodies being deliberately burnt in a different house.
Colonel Dading had called Indonesian and Timorese unit commanders together and swore them never to tell anyone the true version of how the foreign journalists died, the witness said.
When an Australian investigation team visited in 1976, the witness, shadowed by an Indonesian intelligence officer, told them the concocted story.
East Timor's former prime minister, Mari Alkatiri, says he will sue the ABC for defamation over an award-winning program that led to him losing office.
Dr Alkatiri said, even before Timorese prosecutors told him on Monday he had been cleared of wrongdoing, that he had instructed lawyers in Australia to prepare legal action against the ABC over a June 2006 Four Corners program that alleged he hired men to kill and intimidate opponents which he has denied.
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