Subject: JP: Stressed-out Cuban seeks political asylum in RI

Jakarta Post

February 17, 2006

Stressed-out Cuban seeks political asylum in RI

Yemris Fointuna, The Jakarta Post, Kupang

A Cuban doctor is seeking political asylum from Indonesia after leaving his temporary practice in Timor Leste, a military commander said Thursday.

Lt. Col. Ediwan Prabowo of the Indonesian border guard told The Jakarta Post that Ramon Ballestero Escobar was detained at Atambua in Belu regency, East Nusa Tenggara, at 2:45 p.m. on Wednesday.

The 39-year-old Escobar reportedly walked most of the way from his practice in Kovalima district in Suai, Timor Leste.

Ediwan said the man refused to return to East Timor because he complained living there was too stressful.

"He also didn't want to go back to his homeland because he said he would be killed there," Ediwan said.

"If the Indonesian government refuses to give him political asylum, Escobar asked that he be deported to the United States to seek political asylum there."

The Cuban told border officers he began his journey by bus Tuesday, before walking through forests to reach Indonesian territory.

When he was taken into custody, an exhausted Escobar was carrying medicine and a stethoscope kit, Ediwan said. He was immediately given food and drink and clothing.

Belu Police chief Adj. Comr. Ekotrio Budhiniar said the Cuban lacked travel documents.

"He just showed a letter of assignment letter in Spanish, which explained that he was a Cuban doctor temporarily stationed in Timor Leste," he said.

Escobar has been flown to the provincial capital of Kupang for further investigation.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Yuri Thamrin said Thursday in Jakarta that his office was still verifying media reports about Escobar with the police.

He said Indonesia referred asylum seekers to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees because the country has no "tradition" of granting asylum.

"We have no intention to be a party to the issue. Also, Indonesia does not have a tradition of providing asylum," he said.

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