Fri, 23 Feb 2001

Yunus set to clear Balibo incident

JAKARTA (JP): Former minister of information Lt. Gen. (ret) Yunus Yosfiah said on Thursday he was willing to go to Australia to clear himself of allegations that he was involved in the murder of five foreign journalists in Balibo, East Timor, 26 years ago.

Speaking during a hearing with House of Representatives Commission I for security, defense and foreign affairs, Yunus said he was willing to testify to prove his innocence in the incident.

"I have always said to my wife that I really want to fly to Australia to explain that I am innocent, and if they want to arrest me, let them do so. But I knew nothing (of the murders)," Yunus said during the hearing.

He said he had never met the five Australian-based journalists who were murdered in East Timor in 1975.

He also said two new witnesses in the case -- Olandino Guterres and Thomas Gonzales -- lied in their testimony.

The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reported earlier this month that United Nations investigators said they had enough evidence to prosecute Yunus, and were preparing to seek an international warrant to arrest him for the killing of the journalists.

The journalists were killed in the border town of Balibo on Oct. 16, 1975, during the chaos in the former Indonesian province that followed Portugal's departure from East Timor.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Alwi Shihab repeatedly has said the Indonesian government will not allow Yunus to be questioned outside the country, especially because there is no proof of his guilt.

Yunus contends the testimony of Guterres and Gonzales is based on their hatred of Indonesian soldiers.

"Their accounts were inconsistent and contradicted each other on the time, the place and the number of people involved in or affected by the incident.

"Their testimony is a lie. I never had any direct encounter with the journalists," he said.

Yunus was a captain when the incident took place and the field commander of the Indonesian special forces sent to East Timor in the wake of Portugal's departure. (dja/rms)