Subject: Soldiers fired at house used for shelter, Balibo inquest
ABC News Online
February 8, 2007
Soldiers fired at house used for shelter, Balibo inquest hears
A coronial inquest in Sydney has heard that Indonesian soldiers fired at a house in the town of Balibo where a group of Australian journalists had sought safety during the 1975 invasion of East Timor.
The inquest is examining the death of Brian Peters, one of the Australians shot dead while covering the Indonesian invasion.
A witness codenamed Glebe Two was this morning recalled to give further evidence.
He told the inquest he saw four of the Australian journalists outside what was known as 'the Chinese house' and a group of soldiers in front of them.
Glebe Two agreed he saw the soldiers open fire and the journalists fall to the ground.
He says he did not see the journalists lying on the ground because a grenade landed nearby at that time and he ran away.
Another witness, codenamed Glebe Five, has told the hearing he saw the Australians when Indonesian forces arrived in the town.
He has indicated the journalists were dressed in civilian clothing and were not armed when they ran into the town square shouting, "Australia, Australia," with their arms raised in the air.
Glebe Five says Indonesian troops were firing at the men, one of whom fell to the ground before the Australians ran into the Chinese house.
The soldiers then fired into the side of the building.
He has rejected suggestions the journalists were caught in cross-fire.
The hearing continues.
SYDNEY Feb 8
The killing of five Australian journalists in East Timor in 1975 may have hinged on whether or not Indonesia's invasion of the former Portuguese colony was regarded as an international war, an inquest has heard.
An inquest is under way in Sydney into the death of Brian Peters, one of the so-called Balibo Five.
Mr Peters and four other Australia-based journalists were killed during an attack by Indonesian special forces troops on the Timorese border town of Balibo in October 1975.
Official reports say the men were killed in crossfire between Indonesian troops and Timorese militia, but their families insist they were murdered.
The inquest today heard evidence from an East Timorese witness, known as Glebe 4, that after the journalists were shot a sergeant with the Indonesian troops told him the killing would not have been allowed in an international war.
Counsel assisting the inquest Mark Tedeschi, QC, read a previous interview Glebe 4 gave about a conversation he had with the soldier, Sergeant Joao Nascimento.
"He said this wasn't an international war. If it was an international war the journalists could not be killed," Tedeschi read to the court.
When asked if he remembered Sergeant Nascimento saying that, Glebe 4 told the inquest: "Sergeant Nascimento told me according to international war they shouldn't kill the journalists."
In the earlier interview Glebe 4 went on to say: "They had raised their hands and said they were journalists.
"How could they kill these men? They had no guilt, they had done nothing."
The inquest also heard evidence from another East Timorese witness, code name Glebe 5, who said he saw the journalists run across Balibo town square when the Indonesian soldiers arrived.
He said one of the journalists yelled to him: "Mr, come on, Mr, come on".
Glebe 5 said when the soldiers started shooting he began to run away but saw one of the journalists fall and heard someone screaming: "Australia, Australia, Australia".
The inquest continues.
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