Subject: Australia to seek repatriation of Balibo bodies

Australia to seek repatriation of Balibo bodies

Sat, 17 Nov 2007 08:29:05 GMT


Sydney - The leaders of Australia's major political parties said Saturday they would press for the return of the remains of the five Australian-based journalists killed by Indonesian troops in the East Timor town of Balibo in 1975. "I would certainly, if we were re-elected, seek the repatriation of the remains," Prime Minister John Howard said. "I think that's a reasonable thing and I can understand the desire of the families for that to occur."

His rival in next week's general election, Labor leader Kevin Rudd, also said he would seek repatriation of the remains of those who have become known as the Balibo Five.

Rudd, who is tipped to win government, said that if Labor took office he would refer the deaths of the Balibo Five to the attorney-general to consider whether a prosecution could be mounted.

"You can't just sweep this to one side," Rudd said. "I know it's a long time, but I also believe that we have got to be methodical about this."

Last week a Sydney coroner ruled that Indonesian troops murdered the five to prevent news getting out about the 1975 invasion of the former Portuguese colony.

Dorelle Pinch said the deaths could constitute a war crime. Her finding has the potential to inflame relations between Canberra and Jakarta, which has declared the 32-year-old case closed.

Jakarta maintains that the five died in crossfire between Indonesian invaders and East Timor's Fretilin defenders.

East Timorese President Jose Ramos Horta has called on Indonesia to accept responsibility for the deaths of the Balibo Five.

Ramos Horta said he was in Balibo around the time of the murders and he has never believed Jakarta's account that the deaths were caused by crossfire.

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