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Balibo journalists' deaths: Coronial Inquest


12 November, 2007
Media Release:

Balibo journalists' deaths: Coronial Inquest outcome due on 16/11/2007


On November 16 in Sydney the NSW Coroner, Dorelle Pinch, is scheduled to release her judgment in the inquest held earlier this year into the deaths of the five Australian based journalists at Balibo in East Timor in 1975. One of the five, photographer Gary Cunningham, was a New Zealander.

The inquest concluded in July with a hard-hitting summation from the Coroner's legal counsel. Counsel Mark Tedeschi QC said that the deaths amounted to pre-meditated murder and he said he wanted to see two Indonesian citizens face trial for war crimes. There is now strong evidence to charge Mohammed Yunus Yosfiah and Christoforus da Silva with a direct role in the killings. Mr Tedeschi suggests that the Geneva Protocols are applicable and that Under Article 147 the deliberate killing of civilian non-combatants in war-like situations, constituted an a war crime, punishable with up to life imprisonment.

The evidence presented at the inquest also pointed to the culpability of Australian politicians and officials who were complicit with Indonesia in covering up these crimes as well as Indonesia's plans to invade and occupy East Timor. The actions of New Zealand officials in 1975 paralleled those of their Australian colleagues, and New Zealand largely disowned Gary choosing to emphasise that he was working and living in Australia at the time of his death.

The New Zealand Government has also chosen over the years to take a hands off stance to enquiries held into the journalists' deaths - always leaving it to Australia to 'investigate' the deaths, despite appeals to become involved from Gary's family.
However, the Coroner's judgment could be a catalyst for New Zealand to become involved in seeking justice for this crime which was pivotal to East Timor's tragic story.

When the judgment is available Greig Cunningham, brother of Gary will be available for comment. He can be contacted on ( 0061) 411 335547

ends

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