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Subject: Presidential Decree Releases 15 Timorese Political Prisoners
Date: Wed, 17 Jun 1998 20:29:57 +0200
From: Comissão para os Direitos do Povo Maubere <>

Presidential Decree (09.06.98) Releases 15 Timorese Political Prisoners

Habibie "amnesties" prisoners who had already served more time in prison than the time they were sentenced.

Of the 15 prisoners amnestied by President Habibie (named by Reuters in Jakarta on 11 June), five had been convicted for taking part in the demonstration held in Dili on 23 March 1998, when the UN Secretary General’s representative, Jamsheed Marker, was there on an official visit.

The 5 Timorese were among a group of 33 demonstrators (32 men and 2 women) who were arrested, tried and sentenced to 12 months imprisonment. In a document written in March 1998 from Dili’s Becora Prison, the group stated: "We want to point out that (…) after the trial, they punished us with a one year prison sentence: from 24 March 1997 to 24 March 1998".

We received reports that the two women were, in fact, released in Mach 1998, but there has been no information about the release of the men. Three months after what should have been their release date, five them have been "amnestied" by President Habibie.

The five "amnestied" prisoners from the group are: Benedito Amaral, Cancio Antonio, Hermenegildo da Costa, Luis Pereira and Tomas Augusto Correia.

The two women released in March are Celina Amaral and Olga Amaral.

The remaining 26 men belonging to the group, whose current situation is not known, are: Abel da Costa Ximenes, Alberto da Costa Belo, Aleixo Soares, Alipio (Alito) Soares, Amaro Pereira, Anacleto (da Silva) Soares, Augusto Raimundo Matos, Carlos Aquilino Gusmao, Celestino Manuel Pereira, Constancio Gomes Leite, Crispim da Silva (da Costa), Domingos da Costa, Domingos Sarmento, Joao Henrique (de Deus), Jose Boavida, Jose Gabriel Guterres, Mariano (Marito da Silva) Soares, Mateus da Costa Belo, Mateus Inancio da Costa, Miguel Alves, Moises Feliciano Soares, Nelson Pereira, Rafael de Almeida, Ronaldo Brasil Januario, Rosito Braga, and Zito Borges Bermau. (Some names differ according to the source).

In the document mentioned above, the prisoners state that were subjected to ill-treatment and torture (beatings, kicks, blows with iron bars, burning with lighted cigarettes, etc.) to force them to sign false confessions. The two women were raped by soldiers.

In late January this year, the group heard about a plan to release them conditionally, after which they would have to report every day to the police (SGF) in Dili. The plan, however, did not materialise.

Two of the 15 prisoners amnestied under the 9 June Decree were convicted for having taken part in a demonstration in Baucau on 10 June 1996.

The remaining 8 prisoners, against whom Habibie decided to drop charges, are students who were arrested for taking part in a demonstration at the University of Dili campus on 14 November 1997. Six had been mentioned in various Amnesty International documents (AI Urgent Action 21/88/97 and others), as well as in documents produced by the Timorese underground resistance movement. Two of them (Paulo Carvalho Silva and Paulo Soares) were not mentioned in any of these documents.

Jean-Pierre Catry Peace is Possible in East Timor

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