Subject: CT Exclusive: Sutiyoso 'Led Torture in Timor' [incl: Electric Shocks, Burns]

Canberra Times

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Exclusive

Governor 'Led Torture in Timor'

'I was given electric shocks and had cigarettes stubbed out in my face'

By Jill Jolliffe,; in Baucau, East Timor

A top-ranking Indonesian official at the centre of a bitter diplomatic dispute last month has been identified as a key figure in the systematic torture of military prisoners after the invasion of East Timor.

Former independence fighters in East Timor's second city of Baucau have accused Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso of conducting regular torture sessions there in the 1970s.

In exclusive interviews with The Canberra Times, former prisoners have also described seeing the former intelligence officer at a holding centre in Baucau where many detainees were executed.

Lieutenant-General Sutiyoso cut short an official visit and stormed out of Australia in June saying he felt "slighted" by a Glebe Coroners Court request that he testify over allegations he was a commander at the border town of Balibo during a 1975 attack in which five television newsmen were killed.

Acting Coroner Dorelle Pinch began hearings in February into the death of cameraman Brian Peters, one of the men known as the Balibo Five, who lived in Sydney.

She is expected to deliver a verdict soon and may seek indictments for crimes against humanity under the Geneva Conventions for former Indonesian information minister Yunus Yosfiah, who also refused to testify, and alleged Balibo henchman Christoforus da Silva.

The diplomatic row sparked by General Sutiyoso's reaction has now extended the spotlight to him.

Baucau witnesses say he had arrived with forces from Group Ume, which spearheaded an attack on the town less than two months after the unit had acted in Balibo.

Ume had set up an interrogation centre in a former Portuguese hotel which it renamed the Flamboyan, after Operation Flamboyan, the military code name for the Balibo attack.

Witnesses said the then Captain Sutiyoso had helped set up the torture centre, although its commander had been a Major Leo.

Joao da Costa was an early victim.

"I was held at the Flamboyan for three months in 1976 and Sutiyoso often led my late-night interrogations," he said.

"I was given electric shocks, and had cigarettes stubbed out in my face and on my body during interrogations commanded by Sutiyoso ... On one occasion I was covered in blood. I pleaded with him to point his gun at me and give me a bullet."

Australia's ambassador to Indonesia, Bill Farmer, apologised to General Sutiyoso over the court's approach, in which he claimed a detective had opened his hotel door with a master key.

When demonstrators took to the streets in Jakarta, NSW Premier Morris Iemma also apologised, to the anger of families of the Balibo Five.

Son of Channel Seven cameraman Gary Cunningham, John Milkins, said the families had waited 32 years "for an apology from the Indonesian Government and here we have the spineless federal and state governments apologising to somebody who was, in fact, very close to the Balibo incident."

A second ex-guerrilla, who asked to be known only as FS, said he had been questioned by General Sutiyoso in 1979 about his unit's command structure.

He identified General Sutiyoso to The Canberra Times from a photo.

He said he had not been personally hurt by General Sutiyoso, but that two of his cellmates had confirmed his reputation as a sadistic torturer.

"Sutiyoso interrogated my friend Armindo Pereira do Rego," FS said.

"When he came back to our cell he had been beaten, burnt with cigarettes and given electric shocks.

Afonso Henriques was also given electric shocks under Sutiyoso's command."

A middle-ranking resistance fighter, FS described General Sutiyoso in 1979 as "a colleague" of Balibo commander Yunus Yosfiah.

He said that after the first interrogation, General Sutiyoso had sent him to Dili by helicopter for questioning by Mr Yosfiah.

The interrogation had been conducted in the San Tai Ho building, also a torture centre run by Intelstrat, a wing of Indonesian military intelligence services.

In later years, Christoforus da Silva also appeared in Baucau and befriended local man Jose Manuel Aparicio.

Scion of a noble family, Mr Aparicio collaborated with the Indonesian army and he said Mr da Silva had trusted him as a result.

He said Mr da Silva had confessed that "he had fired the first shot in Balibo, and that Yunus was his commander. He told me it was very, very secret". He was also told "that Sutiyoso had taken part in the slaughter at Balibo".

------------------------------------------ Joyo Indonesia News Service


Back to July menu
May
World Leaders Contact List
Main Postings Menu