Subject: Australia anti-terror ambassador says Balibo probe won't hurt ties

also Australia Told to Ignore Indonesian ‘Blackmail’ Over Balibo 5 Probe

Anti-terror ambassador says Balibo probe won't hurt ties

BALIBO SYDNEY, Sept 16 AAP - An Australian investigation into the deaths of five Australian-based journalists in East Timor will not undermine anti-terrorism links with Indonesia, Australia's Counter Terrorism Ambassador says.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) last week announced it would launch an official war crimes investigation into the 1975 deaths of the five journalists in the East Timorese border town of Balibo.

The announcement came almost two years after a NSW coroner concluded they had been deliberately killed by Indonesian forces and has ruffled the feathers of Indonesian authorities.

But William Paterson, appointed Australia's ambassador for counter terrorism in 2008, said the working relationship between the AFP and its Indonesian counterparts was robust enough to withstand the investigation.

"The Australian Federal Police have developed a very good and quite enduring relationship with their Indonesian counterparts, and I think it is understood on both sides how effective that has been in dealing with the terrorist threat," Mr Paterson told an audience at Sydney's Lowy Institute on Wednesday.

"I think that can probably sustain a fair amount of pressure, which will come not simply through the Balibo issue, but through other issues as well."

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith has also said the investigation would not impact on the bilateral relationship between the two countries.

However, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has said the decision to investigate such an old episode was backward-looking.

For three decades, successive Australian and Indonesian governments have claimed the five journalists were accidentally killed in crossfire.

In a wide-ranging speech on counter terrorism in the Southeast Asian region, Mr Paterson said that while Indonesia had been successful in blunting Jemaah Islamiah (JI), the terrorist group behind the Bali bombings had been able to regroup.

Mr Paterson said the bombings of Jakarta's JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels on July 17 this year shattered hopes that terrorism had been contained by Indonesia in recent years.

Of major concern was fugitive terrorist mastermind Noordin Mohammed Top, whose JI splinter group is suspected of carrying out the July hotel bombings that killed seven people, including three Australians.

"He appears to have had little difficulty in recruiting supporters, including those prepared to seek martyrdom as suicide bombers," Mr Paterson said.

"He also appears to be able to draw on a network of sympathisers who offer safe haven in his continuing evasion of justice.

"Noordin appears to have upped the stakes. The 17th July bombings may have been an attempt to demonstrate to al-Qaeda Noordin's capability in an attempt to secure the status of an al-Qaeda affiliate, with the advantages that might bring in recruiting (and) funding."

Al-Qaeda backing would "magnify" his reach across the region, Mr Paterson said.

Top is also suspected of organising the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings, the 2003 attack on Jakarta's Marriott Hotel, and the 2004 bombing of the Australian embassy in Jakarta.

Mr Paterson warned that conditions across South-East Asia were ripe for terrorist recruitment, with democratisation providing a space for extremist organisations, the internet offering a platform for radical views, and poverty and unemployment fostering support.

He urged the international community, including Australia, to continue development assistance to the southeast Asian region to ameliorate the socio-economic issues that lead to radicalisation.

"If you're a young person in southern Thailand, or poverty-stricken rural Java, and have no access to a decent education which will get you employment and a stake in your society, then you're likely to be pretty dissatisfied and pretty susceptible to an extremist message," he said.

The Jakarta Globe

September 18, 2009

Australia Told to Ignore Indonesian Blackmail’ Over Balibo 5 Probe


A leading press freedom group has urged Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to resist Indonesian “blackmail” over a war crimes investigation into the 1975 deaths of five Australia-based journalists.

Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontieres released an open letter to Rudd on Wednesday warning that the world was watching Australia’s investigation of the “Balibo Five,” who were killed during Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor.

Australian police announced last week that they had launched a war crimes probe into the deaths, nearly two years after a Sydney coroner ruled they had been murdered by Indonesian forces in an attempt to keep the invasion secret.

The surprise move prompted President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to warn that such an “inaccurate mind-set” could damage relations between Canberra and Jakarta, which considered the case to be closed.

Rudd has dismissed the comments as “bumps in the road” in Australia’s sometimes fraught relationship with neighboring Indonesia.

Jean-Francois Julliard, the secretary general of Reporters Sans Frontieres, said Yudhoyono’s “hostility” was contrary to international justice and called on the Australian prime minister to take a strong stance.

We urge you to find the political, diplomatic and judicial means to bring the perpetrators of this multiple murder to justice,” Julliard wrote.

We urge you, prime minister, not to yield to Indonesian diplomatic blackmail, which for too long has resulted in your country remaining silent on this matter.”

Australian coroner Dorelle Pinch in 2007 said Indonesia’s military had murdered the five journalists —Britons Brian Peters and Malcolm Rennie, Australians Greg Shackleton and Tony Stewart, and New Zealander Gary Cunningham.

The journalists were killed in the East Timor border town of Balibo as they covered the Indonesian invasion that led to a 24-year occupation of the former Portuguese colony.

Jakarta has always maintained that the reporters died in a cross-fire as Indonesian troops fought East Timorese Fretilin rebels, a version of events accepted by successive Australian governments.

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