November 18, 1994
DILI, Indonesia (AP) -- Violence erupted Friday in East Timor for the second time in a week as pro-independence demonstrators clashed with riot police and government supporters.
The number of injuries was unknown, and no deaths were reported. Witnesses said several people were arrested, but no details were immediately available.
The confrontation, which began when Mass at the Roman Catholic Cathedral was canceled, underscored bitter divisions among the population of East Timor over rule of the territory by Indonesia, which invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975 and annexed it the following year.
Most of East Timor's 700,000 people are Roman Catholic and resent being ruled by Muslim Indonesia.
In Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, 29 East Timorese dissidents camped inside the U.S. Embassy refused an offer Friday of asylum in Portugal.
After Bishop Carlos Belo, a strident critic of Indonesia's annexation of East Timor, canceled a late-afternoon Mass, some teen-age boys and young men attacked and clubbed several others in the crowd, accusing them of being government spies.
No reason was given for calling off the Mass, but rumors of a demonstration had swept Dili, the capital of East Timor. Some in the crowd shouted anti-government slogans and waved protest banners for about 20 minutes.
An apparently pro-Indonesian crowd of several hundred people gathered outside the churchyard and hurled rocks and bottles over a wall into the grounds.
About 100 helmeted riot police armed with shields and clubs arrived and hurled several tear-gas canisters over the wall, then stormed the cathedral grounds.
The crowd at the cathedral began to disperse, but as people left the gates, many were attacked by the crowd outside.
The disturbance came just two days after President Clinton spoke with President Suharto about Indonesia's human rights record.
Police also fought running battles with an angry mob on Sunday. Police Col. Sugianto Andreas said 22 people were being held for questioning in the unrest Sunday, which he said was triggered by the murder of a vendor.
Earlier Friday, police in East Timor accused a Japanese television news crew of instigating a political protest, an accusation the network denied.
Andreas told reporters that the crew distributed anti-Indonesian posters and banners to university students and asked them to demonstrate outside the campus of East Timor University on Tuesday.
East Timor is usually closed to foreign media, but restrictions have been lifted so journalists can visit following the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Jakarta, 1,500 miles to the west.
The 29 East Timorese dissidents camped inside the U.S. Embassy grounds in Jakarta since last week rejected asylum in Portugal, insisting on the release of a jailed resistance leader.
"We came here not for asylum but for the release of Jose Alexander Gusmao," said Domingos Sarmento, a spokesman for the men who climbed the embassy gates on Saturday and have refused to leave since then.
Gusmao "is the only person who can represent us to deal with the Indonesian government for the independence of East Timor," Sarmento told reporters.
Gusmao heads a rag-tag guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Front for the Independence of East Timor Against Indonesia.
He was arrested in East Timor in l992 and sentenced to 20 years in a Jakarta prison.