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Indonesians Executed Aussies

Indonesians Executed Aussies

Exclusive by Janet Fife-Yeomans

SYDNEY (Daily Telegraph/Pacific Media Watch) - Five young Australians were executed on the orders of Indonesian military chiefs, according to sensational evidence omitted from official government reports.

The statement by a top lawyer, George Brownbill, contradicts the official line that the five men, all journalists, were caught in a crossfire in Balibo while covering Indonesia's invasion of East Timor in 1975.

The Saturday Daily Telegraph has learned that Mr Brownbill will be called as a key witness at the first inquest into the tragedy to be held at the NSW Coroners Court early next year.

Mr Brownbill said he saw a telexed intelligence report, marked Top Secret, of covertly-intercepted radio traffic between an officer commanding Indonesian forces in East Timor and his bosses in Jakarta. Intercepted just hours after the killings, it said: "In accordance with your instructions" the five had been located and shot.

The officer then asked his superior for orders about what to do with the bodies and the journalists' personal effects. The bodies were looted and burned.

Channel 9 cameraman Brian Peters, 29, and reporter Malcolm Rennie, 28, Channel 7 reporter Greg Shackleton, 27, cameraman Gary Cunningham, 27, and sound recordist Tony Stewart, 21, all died at Balibo on October 16, 1975.

In evidence which will further embarrass the Australian Government over its relationship with Indonesia, investigators with the NSW coronial unit have been told the explosive intelligence cable may still exist.

Mr Brownbill made his statement reluctantly in 1999 to former National Crime Authority head Tom Sherman, who was conducting the second government inquiry into the deaths of the journalists.

While it backed up other evidence, Mr Sherman made no mention of Mr Brownbill's claims in his report, which concluded the men had died in a "monumental blunder" during fire between the invading Indonesians and East Timor's Fretelin forces.

Mr Brownbill was secretary to the Hope Royal Commission into the nation's intelligence and security when he visited the sensitive Defence Signals Directorate at Shoal Bay near Darwin in 1977.

He said in his statement that a young man handed a piece of paper to him and fellow royal commission investigator Ian Cunliffe, saying: "You people should know about this."

Mr Cunliffe told Mr Sherman in 1999 that Mr Brownbill had not been happy about the cable being revealed because "his inclination is to let sleeping dogs lie".

While Mr Cunliffe's evidence was made public, the contents of the cable seen by Mr Brownbill was not.

The Department of Defence and Defence Signals Directorate are refusing to hand over the secret documents to the inquest, claiming public interest immunity.

Lawyers for the families of the five men will ask NSW Deputy Coroner Dorelle Pinch on Thursday to overturn a decision and allow them to call former prime minister Gough Whitlam and senior ministers from 1975 to ask them what they knew.

"We want to be able to say when the inquest is finished that all reasonable questions have been asked and answered which will lead to the truth of the circumstances surrounding the deaths of these five journalists," solicitor Rodney Lewis said yesterday.

"These guys were simply bringing the news to us while we warmed our toes in the loungeroom watching TV.

"They were our eyes and ears and yet people have said about them that they put themselves in danger. They were doing their job."




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