06 May 2012

Police Want Demonstrators put Under House Arrest

Jornal Independente By: Raimundo Oki 4 May 2012 DILI: Dili District Police yesterday presented 84 demonstrators to the Dili District Court, requesting that they be put under house arrest, but the court has not yet registered the case.

The 75 males and nine females were arrested during an International Workers’ Day protest organised by workers’ associations outside Hotel Timor on Tuesday.

The police said the protest was illegal and, after they arrested the event coordinator, demonstrators started to throw stones, injuring two police officers and a hotel security guard, cracking windows at the front of the hotel and damaging a police car.

On the day of the arrests, Dili District Police commander Pedro Belo said police had detained the demonstrators because they had violated the demonstration law, which required that protests be at least 100m from public places.

But the coordinator of workers’ union STCST, Helder Aleixo, said the police intervention was unprofessional.

Protesters had not intended to destroy Hotel Timor, but to defend the rights of four workers who had recently been sacked by hotel manager João Perdigao, he said.

The police had fired their guns and used brutal force to arrest demonstrators, and this had sparked the confrontation, he said.

Police detained the 84 demonstrators in the Dili District Police station in Caicoli for 72 hours and yesterday presented them to the court.

Dili District Court judge administrator Duarte Tilman said the court had not registered the case against the demonstrators.

Meanwhile, about 8pm Tuesday four male demonstrators received medical treatment at the national hospital in Dili for injuries sustained during the conflict with police.

The acting director of HAK Association, a Timorese human rights and justice NGO, strongly criticized PNTL General Command, saying its members had committed human rights violations in their actions against the demonstrators.

Manuel Monteiro Fernandes said HAK was calling on the PNTL General Command to teach police task force members to act in a professional manner that did not violate human rights.

The national parliament needed to alter the demonstration law before the government’s mandate ended because it violated citizens’ rights to demonstrate, he said.

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