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Portuguese TV Crew Detained In West Timor

PORTUGUESE TV CREW DETAINED IN WEST TIMOR

DILI, East Timor: Members of Portuguese TV crew detained for three days by police and military intelligence agents in Indonesian West Timor claimed on Monday it was their documentation of the very close relations between a militia leader and the Indonesian military and police that led to their harassment.

Last week the Dili-based crew of SicTV from Lisbon became the first Western journalists to interview the leader of the Sakuna militia, Moko Soares, who is held responsible by the residents of the devastated East Timor district of Oecussi for a series of grisly atrocities, including the beheading and mutilation of dozens of victims.

Over the weekend a U.N. human rights team completed exhumations of 37 bodies from several gravesites in Passabe, Oecussi, among a total of 56 victims of the Sakuna militia killed last September during the wave of destruction unleashed in all parts of East Timor.

At a press briefing in Dili, the International Force in East Timor (Interfet) commander, General Peter Cosgrove, announced that the joint border commission between Interfet and the Indonesian military had made progress in the investigation of Soares.

Cosgrove reported, "We have been told that a warrant of arrest for Moko Soares has been issued," and that he will soon be made available for interrogation.

However, members of the Portuguese TV team that has just returned from Moko Soares' residence in Kefamananu in West Timor, close to the border with Oecussi, are not at all hopeful that the militia leader is about to be arrested.

Rita Nolasco, one of three-person Portuguese media team, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa: "The authorities could arrest Moko Soares any time they want. He is not in hiding and we spent several days filming him. The TNI

(Indonesian military) and the police are very close to him."

Portuguese cameraman Fernando Faria reported that while they were under interrogation at West Timor's Kefamananu police station, and their

passports had been taken away, one police official volunteered the information that "we have been asked to arrest Moko Soares but there is no room for him in the jail."

According to Faria, "we were treated like criminals. Our fingerprints were taken, they kept our passports for three days, and threatened us with three years imprisonment for entering the country illegally at the East Timor border."

The Portuguese team did not get their visas stamped at the West Timor border town of Moultain because there are no immigration officers equipped to do this and visas can only be stamped upon arrival in Kupang, team members said.

International aid workers frequently travel from East Timor across the border to refugee camps in West Timor without any harassment. The Portuguese team was effectively deported from West Timor with "denied entry stamps" placed in their passports.

The Portuguese ambassador to Jakarta, Ana Gomez, is following up complaints from the TV station that its reporters have been ill- treated and victimised by the Indonesian authorities in West Timor.

ends

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