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09 July 2008

FRETILIN MPs back Amnesty International concern at student arrests

Media Release: FRETILINJuly 9, 2000

The Gusmao de facto AMP government and its allies in the national parliament have to listen to Amnesty International's concerns, said the MPs from FRETILIN yesterday, as a further 21 students were arrested while holding another peaceful protest against government corruption.

FRETILIN is the largest party in the Timor-Leste parliament.

"We as Timorese who resisted against the Suharto military regime, in many instances have Amnesty International to thank for helping to save our lives," said Aniceto Guterres, leader of the FRETILIN parliamentary group.

"Many Timorese escaped death and torture because Amnesty International was our defender throughout the world, at a time when we did not have a voice, when there were few who would listen to our cries. They were listening only to the large nations, big powers, listening mostly to the Indonesians.

On Monday, July 7, Amnesty called on police in Timor-Leste not to use excessive force on student protestors.

They also said: "We urge security forces to respect people's right to protest peacefully. Individuals should have the freedom to express their views in public through legitimate protest.
"According to press reports, today saw a number of people detained 'for investigation purposes' at one demonstration in Dili. We also ask for any individuals detained for protesting to be charged with a recognizably criminal offence, or released immediately," said Amnesty International.

Guterres urged members of parliament and the de facto government not to forget that their constitution consecrates the right to demonstrate as a basic right in their democracy. "We want to remind everyone of this basic principle and give our unqualified support to the exercise of this right," he said.

"All FRETILIN members of parliament would also like to make it clear that after we investigated Monday's events, we found that the students had acted peacefully and in accordance with the law. We condemn the use of what we regard in the circumstances to have been excessive force by the Police," Aniceto Guterres said.

The law on public demonstrations does not require police authorization before a demonstration can proceed. It merely requires notice be given to the police. "We have seen the letter from the police to the students 'denying authorization' for the demonstration. This is not required by law," said Guterres on behalf of the FRETILIN MPs.

As has been widely televised and witnessed, the students involved on Monday were not on the road, they were standing on the verandah of the university. The police entered the verandah to arrest them. The students were standing peacefully and with dignity.

"Our view is that Monday's actions by the police were illegal and we do not accept their actions," said Guterres. "FRETILIN members of parliament clearly declare that we have no objections to anyone demonstrating in front of the parliament peacefully and in a democratic spirit. That's democracy. In 2006 and 2007, the FRETILIN government was faced with many such demonstrations. We do not mind if people want to express their criticism of their politicians.

That is their right.

"Long live democracy. Long Live the RDTL. Long live the Maubere People," concluded Guterres.

Contact: Jose Teixeira +670 728 7080
Nilva Guimaraes: + 670 727 0458

Syndicated by East Timor Legal News

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