Defence denies bashing of East Timor men
October 23, 2007 – 1:44PM
Claims that Australian soldiers in East Timor used rifle butts to
repeatedly bash three Timorese civilians have been rejected by Defence.
The soldiers dispersed a drunken brawl without laying a hand on those
involved, Defence said.
The allegations were released overnight by the political party
Fretilin and highlight the ongoing ill-feeling East Timor’s former
political masters direct towards the Australian-led International
Stabilisation Force (ISF).
The incident occurred on the night of Sunday, October 14 with claims
of abuse first surfacing two days later.
Australian commander Brigadier John Hutcheson subsequently responded
through the East Timor media.
But that did not settle the issue, with Fretilin now claiming
Australian soldiers reacted aggressively because that area was
considered a Fretilin stronghold and the shop where the incident
occurred was flying a large Fretilin flag.
Fretilin said security guard Abilio Fatima was on duty outside a food
warehouse when six soldiers approached, directing him and his
neighbours to go home.
“Mr Fatima explained through a Tetum language interpreter attached to
the soldiers that he was on duty, that regular police patrols never
ordered him to leave his post, and asked why the soldiers were so
concerned with ordinary civilians like him instead of with cases like
Alfredo Reinado, the rebel soldier, and his armed group,” it said in
a media statement.
“Mr Fatima alleged that after he mentioned Reinado he was immediately
struck with rifle butts many times in the head, upper arms and back,
and then bitten on the right upper arm by a soldier’s guard dog. Two
of his neighbours were also assaulted and fled to their homes.”
The Australian Defence Force said nothing like this occurred.
Rather, a routine patrol came across two youths fighting with a third
watching, all obviously intoxicated.
Told to go home, one of the fighting men abused the soldiers. He was
restrained by one of the other men.
“After about seven minutes, the intoxicated men left. At no time did
the ISF soldier point their weapons at the men,” Defence said in a statement.
“At no time did the ISF soldiers touch the men. At no time did an ISF
working dog bite any of the men. The ISF working dog was at all times
restrained on its lead.”
Defence said the Fretilin allegations were totally false and
misleading and the ISF rejected them completely.
“The ISF has said many times before, if anyone has a concern about
ISF operations, please tell them to the ISF and the ISF will
immediately investigate,” it said.