AUSTRALIA: General's warrant not Aus government

Australian government says decision to issue a warrant for retired Indonesian general was made by New South Wales state coroner

The Jakarta Post
Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has said that the federal government had nothing to do with the decision to issue a warrant for the arrest of a retired Indonesian general.

Downer said Tuesday that an arrest warrant for Lt. Gen. (ret) Yunus Yosfiah in relation to the deaths of five journalists in Balibo, Timor Leste, in 1975, was an independent decision made by the New South Wales state coroner.

"This is not something that we are involved in... that's a matter for the New South Wales state coroner and (is) not being done with a request from the Australian government," Downer said in a press conference after a meeting with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Downer met with Yudhoyono to discuss various issues, including efforts to tackle terrorism, a prisoner exchange agreement and the bilateral security Lombok agreement.

The New South Wales state coroner issued the warrant for Yunus after he failed to appear at an inquest into the death of British-born journalist Brian Peters, one of five Australia-based reporters killed during an attack by Indonesian troops on the town of Balibo, Timor Leste, on Oct. 16, 1975.

Deputy State Coroner Dorelle Pinch issued the warrant after Yunus failed to respond to a series of letters requesting he testify before the inquiry, but she conceded the order had no power outside Australia.

Yunus, a lawmaker from the United Development Party, declined to respond to the warrant and questioned the Australian court's authority to issue it.

Yunus said he did not have to detail why he refused to attend the inquest because he had already explained everything to then foreign minister Alwi Shihab and the House of Representatives.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry said that it would not respond to the arrest warrant, saying that the case had long been closed.

The ministry said that the warrant was not enforceable inside Indonesian territory because the Australian court has no jurisdiction here.

Indonesia maintains the reporters were killed accidentally in crossfire, but several witnesses testified before Sydney's Glebe Coroner's Court this month that Yunus ordered his troops to open fire on the unarmed journalists and burn their bodies.

The five journalists were killed as Indonesian special forces attacked a local militia that had claimed sovereignty after Portugal abandoned its former colony. The attack was a prelude to the Indonesian invasion of Timor Leste in December that year.

The inquiry was reported to have been called by Peters' family.