Subject: AFP: Indonesian witness completes fate of Australian media

Also: Indonesian officer told journalists "completed"- inquest

Agence France Presse

May 29, 2007

Indonesian witness completes fate of Australian media

SYDNEY, May 29 2007

An Indonesian marine said five Australian-based journalists killed in East Timor in October 1975 had been "completed" or finished off by the military, an inquest was told Tuesday.

The testimony came at a probe into the death of TV cameraman Brian Peters, one of five British and Australian journalists killed in the East Timor border town of Balibo on October 16 that year.

The Bhasa word "diselesaikan" became the focus of questioning as it was used to describe the fate of the media men to the witness at the time.

Via an interpreter a variety of meanings including "completed", "eliminated" and "finished off" were used to explain the word to the inquest.

Officials maintain the so-called "Balibo Five" died in crossfire during a skirmish ahead of Indonesia's invasion of East Timor, but their families insist they were murdered and that there was a cover-up by Canberra and Jakarta.

The witness, a former Indonesian naval sergeant, told the inquest that two days after the newsmen were killed, he made radio contact with a marine because he was trying to learn the fate of a friend involved in military action in East Timor.

The witness, identified only as "Glebe 11", said the radio operator told him the journalists were "completed" after showing their identification.

"I was told that when the troops moved forward there were five Australians and ... that they were completed," he told the court through an interpreter.

He was questioned by counsel assisting the coroner Mark Tedeschi about the exact word, "diselesaikan", used by the operator to describe the fate of the journalists.

Glebe 11 did not know whether it could be used to mean executed but said other possible interpretations aside from "completed" were "eliminated", "killed" or "finished off".

The inquest has heard testimony from several East Timorese witnesses who said they saw the five journalists deliberately killed by Indonesian forces during the attack.



May 29, 2007

Indonesian officer told journalists "completed"- inquest

Kim Arlington


Two days after five Australian-based journalists were killed at Balibo, an Indonesian naval officer was told they had been "completed", or finished off.

The evidence emerged today at Sydney's Glebe Coroners Court during an inquest into the death of one of the journalists, British national Brian Peters.

Mr Peters, Greg Shackleton, Gary Cunningham, Tony Stewart and Malcolm Rennie - known as the Balibo Five - died in the East Timorese border town on October 16, 1975.

According to official reports they were killed accidentally in crossfire between invading Indonesian troops and Timorese militia.

But the inquest has heard evidence the five were deliberately gunned down by Indonesian soldiers.

A former sergeant with the Indonesian navy today appeared as a witness at the inquest, telling the court he heard about the journalists at Balibo on October 18, 1975.

Identified only as Glebe 11 for his own protection, he gave evidence through an Indonesian interpreter.

He said on October 18, while trying to make contact with a friend in the Indonesian army, he used a marine's radio to speak to another marine in Balibo.

In a written statement to the inquest, Glebe 11 said the radio operator in Balibo told him: "The Indonesian Army has met with the five journalists and they (the journalists) showed their ID and ... the Indonesian Army finished them off."

He said the Indonesian word used by the operator in relation to the journalists was "diselesaikan", or completed.

This may have been translated in his statement as "finished off", he said.

"I was told that when the troops moved forward there were five Australians and ... that they were completed," he told the court.

Asked by counsel assisting the coroner, Mark Tedeschi, QC, whether the word "completed" could mean "executed", he replied: "I don't know."

Mr Tedeschi: Can it mean eliminated?

Glebe 11: It may well be.

Mr Tedeschi: Can it mean kill?

Glebe 11: Maybe.

Mr Tedeschi: Can it mean finished off?

Glebe 11: Yes.

The radio operator had used a different word to describe the death of his friend, who was killed in conflict with East Timorese Fretilin forces, Glebe 11 said.

Mr Tedeschi will make final submissions to Deputy State Coroner Dorelle Pinch when the inquest continues tomorrow.

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