Subject: Balibo inquest hears officials

Also AP: Former investigator: Indonesian army ordered 1975 deaths of journalists

ABC Radio Australia

Balibo inquest hears official saw classified message about killings

22/02/2007, 23:25:16

An Australian inquest has heard of an intercepted message from the Indonesian army which indicated that five journalists had been shot as instructed in East Timor.

A former Australian public servant, Ian George Cunliffe, has testified that he saw a classified security intercept about the deaths of the "Balibo Five" journalists.

The Glebe Coroner's Court in Sydney is holding an inquest into the death of Brian Peters, one of the five journalists, who were killed in East Timor in 1975, as they covered the Indonesian invasion.

Mr Cunliffe has told the court that in 1977, he saw the message from the Indonesian army, which indicated that the journalists had been shot in accordance with instructions.

He says when he saw the message as part of his work with the Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security, his immediate reaction was that the Australian government had been lying about it's knowledge of the journalists' deaths.

He says the conclusion by a former government solicitor, Tom Sherman, that the five were killed in cross-fire was not supported by evidence.


Former investigator: Indonesian army ordered 1975 deaths of journalists in East Timor


SYDNEY, Australia (AP)

A former Australian government official said Thursday he saw an Indonesian military document in 1977 reporting that five foreign newsmen were killed under orders during Indonesia's invasion of East Timor two years earlier.

The deaths of the five newsmen in the town of Balibo has been a point of contention between the two nations for decades, with numerous official inquiries failing to end speculation that foul play was involved and that the Australian government knew it.

A New South Wales state coroner is currently hearing testimony about the death of one of the men, Brian Peters, after his family claimed he was murdered and sought a formal inquest.

George Brownbill told the inquest on Thursday that in 1977, when he was part of an Australian government investigation into the deaths, he had seen a message from Indonesian forces in East Timor to their superiors that had been intercepted by Australian intelligence services.

The first portion of the document "was a report that `as directed' or `in accordance with your instructions we have killed the five journalists,"' Brownbill said.

"The second was that it had happened at the back of a shed, or room, or behind a house. The third element of the message was seeking instructions as to what was to be done with the bodies and personal effects."

It was not clear what happened to the document.

Reporter Greg Shackleton and sound recordist Tony Stewart, both Australians, New Zealander Gary Cunningham, and two Britons, Peters and Malcolm Rennie, were killed during an attack by Indonesian special forces on Balibo on Oct. 16, 1975.

The newsmen were in East Timor to cover the expected invasion by Indonesia after Portugal withdrew from its former colony, which lies just north of Australia. The full invasion came in December 1975.

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