Following widespread criticism of the grotesque discrepancy between verdicts for East Timorese demonstrators and soldiers who opened fire on them, General Benny Murdani defended the results as being in accord with Indonesia’s legal system. The Timorese, he said, „were found guilty of subversion while officers were found guilty of ignoring instructions”. That speaks reams about justice in Indonesia but more to the point, all the trials were strictly in conformity with a scenario serving political aims. Gradually, the extent of the frame-up is becoming clearer as our analysis of both sets of trials shows.
Francisco Miranda Branco, 41, was one of eight East Timorese to be tried for the 12 November demonstration and got a 15-year sentence, second only to life for Gregorio da Cunha Saldanha. The following summarises his Defence Plea, received recently in London, entitled, „Aspirations and innermost feelings of the East Tirnorese on trial“. The 'case' against him is similar in many respects to the case against most of the others (see Draconian sentences for survivors).
Despite what Murdani said, only two were actually tried for subversion. The other six were tried under articles of the Criminal Code which allow a maximum of seven years; however, three got in excess of that. Had the prosecutor had his way, all would have got more than 8 years.
The prosecution argued, and the courts agree, that the plan to hold a demonstration was aimed at undermining East Timor's integration. Ignoring all the documented evidence, particularly the Yorkshire TV footage which was not so much as mentioned, the prosecution argued, and the court agreed, that the demonstrators behaved provocatively and even that some were armed.
The defendants argued that the status of East Timor is a matter for the international community to resolve. They were hoping to use the UN-sponsored MPs' visit to express their aspirations and call for negotiations.
The Comité Executivo
Francisco had worked for the Portuguese administration. In January 1976, he got a job working for the Indonesian administration and became a member of Korpri, the association of civil servants which all Indonesian government employees must join. At the time of his arrest, he was working for the economics department of the local government administration. He is married with six children, aged from 2 to 15 years. He did not attend the demonstration in Dili on 12 November. He was arrested on 6 December 1991.
Branco was one of eight East Timorese who formed an ad hoc body, the Comité Executivo (CE), set up to handle the sensitive task of making contact with the Portuguese parliamentary mission which was to have visited East Timor. Branco and his friends wanted to take advantage of this UN-sponsored mission, hoping to enjoy the protection officially provided for anyone wanting to contact the MPs.
Of the eight CE members, six have been tried and sentenced. The two not tried are Constancio Pinto whose whereabouts is unknown (if indeed he is still alive) and Filipe Gama Xavier. One mystery surrounding the trials is the role of Pinto. There is little doubt on the seniority of his position in the clandestine front and his arrest in January 1991 sent shock waves through the movement. He was released within days and although it was said than that he was under orders to spy on his colleagues, he clearly did not lose their confidence as he played such a prominent role in the preparations for the MPs' visit. In his defence plea, Gregorio notes that while he was in hospital after the demonstration, being treated for injuries, a security officer told him that Pinto is „working with us”. Gregorio gives no hint of whether he believed this or not.
Planning to meet the MPs
Since Pope John Paul's visit East Timor in October 1989, it had become the tradition for Timorese to demonstrate whenever foreign visitors came, the only chance for them to convey their feelings to the outside world, preferably in the presence of journalists. The Portuguese MPs' visit was to have been the climax of this strategy, an occasion for which the East Timorese spared no effort.
The visit had been planned for years under UN auspices. Yet, Branco and his friends have been savagely punished for nothing more than trying to make use of this event. Branco explained why the CE was set upr:
On the basis of the Terms of Reference [for the mission] agreed on 27 June 1991 by Portuguese and Indonesian representatives at the UN; under the auspices of the Secretary General, Constancio Pinto took the initiative to set up a Comité Execulivo to hand a petition of the National Council of Maubere Resistance (CNRM) to the parliamentary mission, asking for dialogue.
The two critical paragraphs of the Terms of Reference are: Paragraph 9: The Portuguese parliamentary delegation shall have unhindered access to all parts of the territory, within the context of the agreed objective of the visit, in conditions of peace and security. Paragraph 10: The Portuguese parliamentary delegation shall be free to meet whoever it wishes and anyone who wish’s to meet the Portuguese parliamentary delegation will be allowed to do so. No action, including of a security nature, may be taken by the Indonesian authorities that could prejudice any potential or actual contacts. Individuals who meet the Portuguese parliamentary delegation shall not be made to suffer any adverse consequences as a result of these contacts.
Branco said: „The CE was set up to ask the parliamentary mission to urge the Portuguese government to enter into dialogue with the Indonesian government and with representatives of the East Timorese people, including those for and against integration with Indonesia. This was in line with UN General Assembly Resolution 37/30, passed on 23 November 1982, to reach a solution of the East Timor question that would be acceptable to all sides.“ '
The CE decided on 26 October to make preparations to welcome the parliamentary mission when it arrived on 4 November with a petition drafted by Conslancio Pinto and signed by all the members; it asked the Portuguese and Indonesian governments together with East Timorese representatives, for as well as against integration, to seek a solution to the Easi Timor question acceptable to all sides, under UN auspices.
Non-violence and peace
Branco was explicit about his own political stance: „I uphold the principles of non-violence and peace. So, after the outbreak of the civil war in East Timor on 20 August, 1975, I decided that whereas up till then, my sympathies lay with ASDT/Fretilin, I would no longer take sides with any party, including Fretilin, which is my position to the present day. In my opinion, parties only result in antagonism and conflicts between the East Timorese which can lead to their destruction, ultimately benefitting others.“
Branco set forth his understanding of the events leading up to Indonesian integration. He incorporated into his defence plea the political programmes of the three main parties, ASDT/Fretilin, UDT and Apodeti. Although they had different demands for East Timor's future, they all, including Apodeti (which favoured integration with Indonesia), wanted a referendum.
He referred to the 30 November 1975 Balibo Declaration signed by leaders of four East Timorese parties including UDT and Apodeti, asking for integration with Indonesia but said that some of the signatories had since disavowed it. (This document is used by Indonesia to back its claim that integration took place 'at the request of the East Timorese people'.
Branco quotes extensively from the report produced in 1990 by sociologists from Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta, under Dr Mubyarto, which highlighted trauma and deep-rooted dissatisfaction in East Timor with life under Indonesian occupation. After quoting from the ten resolutions of the UN Security Council and General Assembly, he said that Resolution 37/30 of 23 November 1982 mandates the Secretary General to consult with all parties directly concerned, which further legitimises the intentions of the CE.
Then came the Indonesian invitation in 1987 to the Portuguese Parliament to send a mission to East Timor. This led ultimately to arrangements for the mission to take place and the adoption of the Terms of Reference on 27 June 1991. This is what led to the initiative to set up the CE.
Branco and 12 November
From the testimony of witnesses summarised in the Defence Plea of his lawyers, it transpires that Branco was not in favour of a demonstration to greet the Portuguese MPs; he would have preferred a welcome with dances and the presentation of flowers. When the visit was aborted, he apparently did not favour holding a demonstration on 12 November, so did not attend and went to work instead. Witnesses' testimonies not refuted by Branco suggest that the CE did not plan the 12 November demonstration.
Four of Branco's colleagues on the CE testified: Gregorio da Cunha Saldanha, Carlos dos Santos Lemos, Juvencio do Jesus Martins and Filomeno da Silva Fereira. Gregorio told the court that his interrogation statement (BAP) was made under duress and he therefore withdrew it.
„ Two other civilian witnesses testified, both Indonesians with Balinese names, about the procession on 12 November which they saw while standing along the route or in offices passed by the procession. In neither case would Branco comment on their testimony as he was not present.
Four military witnesses were called but only one appeared - Lamiren (rank not slated), a deputy group commander from Battalion 303. His testimony dealt with what happened before and after the troops opened fire. Again, Branco made no comment.
The three soldiers who failed to appear because of 'duties elsewhere' were: Private Dominggus da Costa, Major Andi Gerhan Lantara and Rudolf Roja. The first two were allegedly wounded by demonstrators, so their non-appearance is all the more incomprehensible, particularly the non-appearance of Lantara, an officer with Battalion 700 whose role in events surrounding the demonstration has been totally obliterated; his battalion was spirited out of East Timor within days of the massacre. Lantara himself left immediately after the massacre and has avoided any publicity ever since. None of the soldiers tried in the courts-martial was from Battalion 700.
The defence were unable to produce any witnesses. They named two - Laurentina and Emanuel da Costa Belo - but the prosecutor who should have summoned them to appear, claimed that they did not want to come as they said they „know nothing about the activities of the accused or the 12 November demonstration“.
Branco's lawyers raised a hast of major issues. They were clearly disturbed
by the mystery surrounding so many incidents before the massacre and provided
important new data about the so-called 'brawl' on 28 October at Motael
church. They vehemently rejected prosecution claims that the CE meetings
were 'illegal' or 'clandestine'. Anyone could have attended and they took
place in people’s homes with no attempt at secrecy. They also drew heavily
on the prevailing atmosphere of fear in East Timor and quoted also from
UN resolutions to prove that its status is still a matter for international
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