Australia has played down fears that a police investigation into the
deaths of five journalists in East Timor will spark a diplomatic
dispute with Indonesia.
Australian police have begun a war
crimes investigation into the deaths of the five newsmen in the East
Timor town of Balibo, which lies about 10 kilometers from the
Their families and others allege that
Indonesian special forces troops deliberately killed the men in an
attempt to cover up their advance into East Timor during an invasion in
A coroner in Sydney ruled in an inquest in 2007 that the men - two Australians, two Britons and a New Zealander - were murdered.
disputes those findings. It says the journalists known as the Balibo
Five died accidentally during fighting between its troops and rebel
Jakarta has called for clarification from Australia
over the new police investigation. Indonesian officials say the Balibo
case is closed.
Political analyst Damien Kingsbury does not think the war crimes inquiry will ultimately bring the suspected killers to justice.
is likely to happen is if there is sufficient evidence and charges are
laid, that the extradition process will be gone through and it will
then end up as an Indonesian judicial matter and they will simply say
that in the circumstances, that Australia doesn't have the capacity or
the right to demand extradition and they will refuse it and that will
effectively be the end of the story," he said.
Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith says both countries will approach the investigation in a "calm and sensible way."
says Indonesia was "surprised" by the police decision to re-examine
deaths that happened almost 40 years ago. He says, however, the inquiry
will not harm bilateral ties.
Relations between the two were
tense for many years, but have been warming over the past seven years,
as the neighbors have cooperated in fighting regional terrorism and on
Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975, as the
Portuguese colonial government left. That began more than a quarter of
a century of rule that ended after a bloody insurgency culminated in
independence in 2002.
The tiny nation has been beset by
political squabbles and poverty ever since and relies on foreign
peacekeepers for its internal security.