16 August 2009

Indonesian Arrested In East Timor Over Attack During Independence Upheaval

The Jakarta Globe August 15, 2009 Indonesian Arrested In East Timor Over Attack by Eras Poke - Kupang, East Timor. Authorities in East Timor arrested an Indonesian on Sunday over his alleged role in a deadly attack at a church there during the upheaval experienced after the country’s vote for independence, an Indonesian official said while appealing to the central government for help in the case.

Richard Djami, an assistant to the governor of East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), said on Friday that the provincial administration was planning to send a letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jakarta to ask the Indonesian Embassy in Dili, the capital of East Timor, to extend all necessary assistance to Martenus Bere, who was arrested during a family trip to the town of Suai near the Indonesian border on Sunday.

We basically back efforts by the Belu district administration to bring back Martenus Bere, who is still held by East Timorese police in Suai,” Richard said. “We hope that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will ask our embassy in Dili to help Martenus because the issue is a bilateral problem.”

Tens of thousands of pro-Indonesia militia members went on a bloody rampage in 1999 after the East Timorese overwhelmingly voted for independence from Indonesia in a UN-sponsored referendum, ending Indonesia’s occupation of the former Portuguese colony after more than two decades. The bloodshed forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes and take refuge in churches and military barracks.

On Sept. 6, 1999, dozens of Laksaur militiamen, armed with machetes, swords, knives and homemade firearms, attacked refugees at a church in Suai, Covalima district, killing at least 40 people, including three priests and more than a dozen women.

The violence also prompted hundreds of thousands of East Timorese to flee to Atambua in NTT, where they have lived in squalid refugee centers. While most refugees have returned to East Timor, more than 10,000 others are still living in Indonesia.

According to Richard, Martenus, a former member of the Laksaur militia group, was in Suai to attend a traditional ceremony in memory of his late father at the family’s home in Leogore, Suai.

The arrest was first made public by the former commander of the pro-Indonesia militias, Eurico Guterres, after receiving reports from Martenus’s family members.

Richard said Martenus was currently being detained in Suai and would be taken to Dili in the next few days. Foreign Affairs Ministry officials could not be reached for comment on Friday.

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