Subject: Grave likely holds East Timorese freedom fighters

also Mass grave halts Timor hotel work

Grave likely holds East Timorese freedom fighters


DILI, East Timor ­ Nine blindfolded and buried bodies found during construction of a beachfront luxury hotel likely were East Timorese freedom fighters executed and put in a mass grave early in the Indonesian occupation, experts said Friday.

Archaeologists are searching for more unmarked graves at the site seven miles (12 kilometers) west of Dili where construction workers last month uncovered human bones while digging the foundation of a five-star hotel.

All nine were wearing remnants of blindfolds. Two Portuguese military uniforms among the remains suggested all nine bodies were of freedom fighters, said Gregorio Saldanha, who heads a government commission that searches for victims of Indonesia's brutal 24-year occupation of this former Portuguese colony.

Resistance fighters used old Portuguese military uniforms and weapons in the early years of the occupation and used stolen Indonesian equipment in later years.

Indonesia invaded East Timor, a Portuguese colony for more than 400 years, in 1975, and its occupation ended with a 1999 independence referendum. Saldanha estimated the nine had died in the first 15 years of the occupation.

"We will search this place as best as we can to collect them all because they are heroes of this country," Saldanha told The Associated Press. The Singaporean company building the hotel has agreed to temporarily postpone construction to allow time for a thorough archaeological dig.

Damien Kingsbury, professor of international studies at Deakin University in Australia and an authority on modern East Timorese history, said the blindfolds added evidence to his belief that the bodies were resistance fighters who had been captured in the mountains and brought to Dili for interrogation.

The Indonesian army, known as the TNI, usually left freedom fighters where they fell in battle or made examples of them to locals by hanging their mutilated bodies from trees, Kingsbury said.

"They wouldn't be buried by the TNI unless they had been executed," Kingsbury said,

"So one might assume that these people had been captured and brought to Dili for interrogation, then executed," he added.

An East Timorese inquiry into human rights abuses under Indonesian rule estimated in 2005 that 180,000 had died during the occupation out of a population of fewer than 1 million people.

Many grave sites were long known and thousands of bodies were exhumed within a few years of the Indonesian withdrawal.

In 2008, a mass grave of 18 was unearthed as Dili's airport runway was extended. The bodies were suspected to be some of an estimated 200 student demonstrators massacred by the Indonesian military at Dili's Santa Cruz cemetery in 1991.

Associated Press Writer Rod McGuirk in Jakarta, Indonesia, contributed to this report.


Mass grave halts Timor hotel work

The Age


March 14, 2010

NINE blindfolded bodies found during construction of a beachfront hotel near Dili are believed to be East Timorese freedom fighters who were executed and buried in a mass grave.

Experts say the executions probably took place in the early years of Indonesia's occupation of the former Portuguese colony.

Two of the victims were wearing Portuguese military uniforms, which many freedom fighters wore at the time of the 1975 Indonesian invasion.

The bodies were uncovered in Tasi Tolu, 12 kilometres west of Dili, where construction of a five-star hotel started last month.

Indonesian soldiers were known to have used Tasi Tolu as a killing ground.

Pope John Paul II said Mass there in 1989 and it was the site of independence celebrations in 2002.

President Jose Ramos-Horta initially speculated that the bodies were victims of the 1991 massacre at Dili's Santa Cruz cemetery, because it was known the bodies of some of those killed were taken to Tasi Tolu.

Construction of the hotel has stopped while experts with the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine and the East Timor government sift the remains, some of which have been underwater for years.

The bodies were found in two machine-dug graves about two metres deep. ''They were piled on top of each other,'' said Soren Blau, a scientist with the institute.

An East Timor inquiry into human rights abuses found in 2005 that about 180,000 civilians died during Indonesia's 25-year occupation.

Gregorio Saldanha of the 12th of November Committee, which searches for victims' remains, said families hoped to rebury the remains.

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