Subject: AP: Australia's ex-PM to testify for probe into 1975 alleged killing

Australia's ex-PM to testify for probe into 1975 alleged killing

SYDNEY (AP): Australia's former prime minister, Gough Whitlam, will testify at a coroner's investigation into the alleged killing of five journalists by Indonesian forces during that country's 1975 invasion of East Timor.

Whitlam, 90, has agreed to make the rare courtroom appearance by a top political leader next Tuesday, New South Wales deputy state coroner Dorelle Pinch said Thursday.

Pinch is investigating the death of British-born journalist Brian Peters, one of five Australia-based reporters killed during an attack by Indonesian troops on the town of Balibo on Oct. 16, 1975.

Indonesia maintains the reporters were killed accidentally in cross fire, but several people claiming to be eyewitnesses have testified before Sydney's Glebe Coroner's Court that Indonesian troops were ordered to open fire on the unarmed journalists, then burn their bodies.

Pinch said Thursday that Whitlam, who was among the first world leaders to recognize Indonesia's annexation of East Timor after the invasion, had provided a statement to the inquest but that she wanted to question him further.

"On the face of it I doubt that there's anything further that he could add," she said. "Nevertheless, I don't want it perceived that we haven't canvassed with him to the fullest extent those matters to which he might be able to give evidence."

The inquiry was called at the request of Peters' family. In Australia, a state coroner can investigate any resident's death not due to natural causes, especially if the circumstances are deemed suspicious, regardless of where the death took place.But the court has no power to extradite suspects or lay charges. (**)

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